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No Time to Lose on Ocean Treaty as Threats to High Seas Rise - Greenpeace

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Thursday, September 14, 2023

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Governments have no time to lose when it comes to implementing a new global ocean treaty to protect the high seas as threats...

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Governments have no time to lose when it comes to implementing a new global ocean treaty to protect the high seas as threats...

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Governments have no time to lose when it comes to implementing a new global ocean treaty to protect the high seas as threats...
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Net zero by 2050 and interim target of 70% emissions reduction by 2035 passed by NSW parliament

Greens and Coalition band together to force Labor to pass stronger greenhouse gas legislation than original policyGet our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcastThe New South Wales government’s greenhouse gas emission reduction targets have been passed into law after the Greens and Coalition joined forces to strengthen the legislation to include interim targets.The state’s target of cutting emissions 70% compared with 2005 levels by 2035, and reaching net zero emissions by 2050, are now enshrined in law, and an independent advisory panel to monitor progress will be established.Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup Continue reading...

The New South Wales government’s greenhouse gas emission reduction targets have been passed into law after the Greens and Coalition joined forces to strengthen the legislation to include interim targets.The state’s target of cutting emissions 70% compared with 2005 levels by 2035, and reaching net zero emissions by 2050, are now enshrined in law, and an independent advisory panel to monitor progress will be established.Following a raft of amendments, the targets will be able to be reviewed and increased over time, and the Net Zero Commission will be able to provide independent advice on projects and policies, including approvals of any new coal and gas projects.The state environment minister, Penny Sharpe, said Labor was taking “serious action on climate change” and governments would be held accountable for delivering on emissions targets into the future.“This bill provides the framework for NSW to embark on the essential journey to net zero emissions and resilience to climate change,” she said.“It shows business and industry they are not alone in responding to this challenge.”Sharpe said she welcomed the cross-party support to get the bill passed before the parliament rises for the year.“[I] look forward to accelerating the transition to renewable energy that will deliver cleaner and more affordable energy to households and businesses,” she said.The legislation was a centrepiece of Labor’s election campaign. The former Coalition government had committed to the ambitious interim target – although insisted it didn’t need laws to achieve the goal.The Minns government was roundly criticised by environmental groups for initially excluding the 2035 target from its bill. Australia’s former chief scientist Prof Penny Sackett last month urged the government to include it.The chief executive ot the Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales, Jacqui Mumford, described it as a milestone in the shift to energy “powered by the wind and sun”, and thanked the opposition and crossbench for strengthening the legislation.skip past newsletter promotionSign up to Afternoon UpdateOur Australian afternoon update breaks down the key stories of the day, telling you what’s happening and why it mattersPrivacy Notice: Newsletters may contain info about charities, online ads, and content funded by outside parties. For more information see our Privacy Policy. We use Google reCaptcha to protect our website and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.after newsletter promotion“The establishment of the independent Net Zero Commission will be critical to ensuring NSW is guided by the science and continues to increase ambition,” she said.“Rarely do we see governments able to secure such broad support for reforms. The NSW parliament should be celebrated for this show of multi-partisanship for our collective future.”Earlier in the year government confirmed it would negotiate with Origin Energy, the owner of the 2,880-megawatt coal-fired Eraring power plant near Newcastle, for a “temporary” extension of its operating life past its 2025 closure date.The chief executive of Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action, Serena Joyner, said it was relieving to see the Coalition and government work together on the bill.“While more needs to be done to protect our communities and environment from worsening climate change-driven events like the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires, these sorts of commitments, that have support from all parties, are important,” she said.“Now, as we head into another potentially devastating summer and fires already destroying homes and lives, it is vital that we see greater climate action.”

Labor and Greens reach deal on Murray Darling Basin plan for 450 gigalitres of environmental flows

‘As we go into another hot, dry spell, it is more critical than ever that we deliver fully on the Murray Darling Basin Plan’, Tanya Plibersek said Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updatesGet our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcastThe Albanese government and Greens have reached a “breakthrough” deal on legislation to amend the Murray Darling Basin plan and ensure an additional 450 gigalitres of environmental flows.The environment and water minister, Tanya Plibersek, said in a joint press conference with the Greens environment spokesperson, Sarah Hanson-Young, that agreed amendments would strengthen the bill which is to be debated in the senate this week.Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup Continue reading...

The Albanese government and Greens have reached a “breakthrough” deal on legislation to amend the Murray Darling Basin plan and ensure an additional 450 gigalitres of environmental flows.The environment and water minister, Tanya Plibersek, said in a joint press conference with the Greens environment spokesperson, Sarah Hanson-Young, that agreed amendments would strengthen the bill which is to be debated in the senate this week.They include a commitment in law that an extra 450GL of environmental water for the southern basin, to bolster flows to South Australia, will be recovered by 2027.“We know that as we go into another hot, dry spell, it is more critical than ever, that we deliver fully on the Murray Darling Basin Plan,” Plibersek said.She said the deal would improve the transparency of the plan and introduce greater accountability for the government for on meeting water targets. It will also give the government the power to withdraw state infrastructure projects if they are found to be unviable.The legislation extends the timeline in which water recovery targets should be reached after it became clear a 2024 deadline would be missed. It also removes a cap on buybacks that was introduced by the previous government.An audit of the Murray Darling Basin Plan found it would fall about 750 gigalitres short of its total of 3,200GL by the deadline of June 2024.About 315GL of the 750 is due to major water saving projects either running late or failing to materialise. The government is setting a deadline of 2026 for water associated with infrastructure projects.Federal environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, and Greens environment spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young announcing the deal. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAPAmong the amendments negotiated with the Greens, the government has agreed to publish information about the status of projects and provision of the 450GL of water for the environment.The inspector general of water compliance will undertake an independent audit of the water allocated to the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder and a “long overdue” amendment will ensure the plan acknowledges and adequately outlines First Nations people’s connection, history and water needs.The government has also committed to boosting funding for the Aboriginal Water Entitlement Program to $100m.Hanson-Young said the deal was a breakthrough that would secure water for the environment in legislation and “ensure the river is there for the future”.skip past newsletter promotionOur Australian morning briefing breaks down the key stories of the day, telling you what’s happening and why it mattersPrivacy Notice: Newsletters may contain info about charities, online ads, and content funded by outside parties. For more information see our Privacy Policy. We use Google reCaptcha to protect our website and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.after newsletter promotion“For over a decade, South Australia has been fighting for the 450 GL of water to be in law to be guaranteed to be delivered,” she said.“Because it’s what science says is needed to save that the lower reaches of the Murray, the Coorong and the Lower Lakes.”To pass the bill, one more crossbench senator would need to vote in favour of the legislation.Plibersek said she remained determined to implement the plan and with much of Australia under El Niño conditions, passage of the legislation was critical.“We want to see the bill delivered so that we can deliver water for communities and for the environment,” she said.“It has to happen this week.”The opposition’s water spokesperson, senator Perin Davey, said Coalition governments had spent a decade working to ensure the rivers flow all the way down the system.“And we know there are better ways that we can deliver the remaining basin plan,” she said.“But this minister is taking the lazy option and resorting to buyback, the quickest, the simplest, but the most costly to communities.”Independent ACT senator David Pocock has put forward a series of requests related to the health of the Upper Murrumbidgee River. They include upgrading water infrastructure, increasing flows and improving catchment health.“If the government is serious about restoring the health of our rivers with this bill, they won’t balk at any of the modest, policy-focused asks I have put forward that would get outcomes for river health and communities,” he said.

Analysis-China Turns to Households in Fight to Slash Carbon Emissions

By David Stanway and David KirtonSHENZHEN, China (Reuters) - At a gleaming new metro station on the edge of Shenzhen, the local government is...

By David Stanway and David KirtonSHENZHEN, China (Reuters) - At a gleaming new metro station on the edge of Shenzhen, the local government is promoting "carbon coins" to commuters to earn and trade for shopping vouchers and travel cards in a push to get households to join China's fight against climate change.The southeastern city's "Carbon Road for Everyone" scheme, which rewards people for logging their use of public transport, is one of dozens around China encouraging citizens to ditch cars, plant trees and cut energy use.The so-called "carbon inclusion" programmes are part of the ruling Communist Party's campaign to mobilise the whole of society, not just industry, to transform the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter into a carbon-neutral country by 2060.China's efforts to tackle climate change will come under intense scrutiny as negotiators from around the world gather for the COP28 meetings in Dubai next week.While the country's emissions reduction task is massive, potential cuts by individuals could be huge. A 2021 study by the China Academy of Sciences said households contribute more than half of China's total emissions of over 10 billion metric tons per year."Carbon inclusion is a huge platform and an effective way to mobilise the public to practice low-carbon, zero-carbon and negative-carbon activities," said Xie Zhenhua, China's top climate envoy, during the launch of a government carbon inclusion committee in August.Eventually, China wants the schemes to be integrated into national emissions trading and generate credits that can offset emissions by industrial polluters, government plans show.China's carbon inclusion ambitions have been in gestation since 2015, when the southeastern province of Guangdong published rules on how to convert low-carbon activity into credits.Since then, dozens of schemes have emerged across the country, accessing personal data like step counts, the use of transport, and the purchase of efficient or environmentally friendly products to generate carbon coins.Banks have also been testing "personal carbon account" systems. The People's Bank of China set up a pilot "carbon to gold loan" scheme in the city of Quzhou, allowing customers to earn carbon points that could improve credit ratings.Other countries have toyed with the idea of personal carbon trading, with pilot schemes set up in Finland and Australia's Norfolk Island. The British environment ministry also commissioned a study into the possibility in 2006 but concluded it was not yet politically or economically feasible.Singapore is currently running a scheme that rewards efficient electricity users with "leaf" tokens that can be exchanged for shopping vouchers."Various actors have tried voluntary schemes that do things like visualisations or the sharing of energy or emissions data at a smaller scale," said Benjamin Sovacool, a professor of Earth and Environment at Boston University."But they lack the scale and sheer scope of what the Chinese are conceiving, and they were not integrated into carbon coins, which is a clever idea."QUANTIFICATION, TRADING HURDLESA major challenge is how to commodify carbon dioxide emissions reductions from a wide range of human behaviour - including the way people go to work, heat their household or put out the trash."It's all about verification," said Yifei Li, professor of Environmental Studies at New York University's Shanghai campus. "When it comes to the level of variability, how people conduct their lives is so wildly different. That is a big problem."Zhang Xin, vice-chairman of the environment ministry's carbon inclusion committee, said better standards were needed to quantify low-carbon behaviour, warning in comments published this year that the proliferation of schemes "has resulted in confusion and inconsistency."Scholars also say it is unclear whether the schemes generate new cuts in carbon dioxide emissions or merely record those that happen anyway.Shanghai said in regulations that came into effect this month its schemes would eventually be "fully connected" to the local carbon market, with enterprises allowed to apply to use household carbon cuts to meet targets.Guangdong also allows enterprises to meet 10% of carbon reduction obligations through carbon inclusion credits.China is still a long way from fulfilling such emissions trading ambitions. Most users remain passive participants: one Beijing-based scheme claims more than 30 million users, but only 1.4% are active, according to research published this year.And there are worries the carbon inclusion schemes could let industrial polluters off the hook by shifting the burden of emission cuts to households."The direction they're going in at the moment is indeed to transfer climate responsibilities from these big firms and more towards individuals," said Li."That is extremely dangerous," he added, as it can "alienate individuals from climate action."While tens of millions of people have already signed up to schemes around the country, some experts fear it will give the state more powers to interfere with people's lives and punish those who fail to make the right low-carbon choices."While the scheme currently is voluntary, the lack of transparency, the unaccountable nature of the Chinese government and the government's track record of using big data for social control are all reasons for concern," said Yaqiu Wang, research director for China at the Freedom House think tank.Critics point to China's handling of environmental problems with controversial measures such as shutting thousands of businesses to cut pollution, relocating homes to make way for national parks and banning poor households from using coal for heating.China climate official Su Wei told local media the green transformation of China would "inevitably involve profound changes in people's daily habits and consumption patterns", but he said carbon inclusion schemes would remain voluntary.The carbon coin promotion at the Shenzhen station drew little interest among commuters on a busy working day in October. However, the local government was upbeat about the project, saying last month it had registered 14.6 million users since its launch in August 2022, cutting emissions by 720,000 metric tons.(Reporting by David Stanway in Singapore; Additional reporting by David Kirton in Shenzhen; Editing by Sonali Paul)Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.

If You Had a Nuclear Weapon in Your Neighborhood, Would You Want to Know about It?

The Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota has had nuclear missile silos on its land for decades. Now the U.S. government wants to take the old weapons out and replace them with new ones, and it’s unclear how many living there know about that.

This podcast is Part 3 of a five-part series. Listen to Part 1 here and Part 2 here. The podcast series is a part of “The New Nuclear Age,” a special report on a $1.5-trillion effort to remake the American nuclear arsenal. [CLIP: Audio from Association of Air Force Missileers video: “After over 50 years of incredible service, the Minuteman III will be replaced and modernized with a new generation ICBM. The Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent Systems Directorate team will deploy 400 new missiles, update 450 silos and modernize more than 600 facilities across almost 40,000 square miles of U.S. territory. This undertaking is a true megaproject that will require radical teamwork, disciplined execution and historic resolve.”] [CLIP: Music]  Ella Weber: This true megaproject is now called the Sentinel missile program. It’s the Air Force’s most ambitious military construction and weapons project in decades. Weber: The new weapon is one part of a plan that was started under former President Barack Obama. It was accelerated by the Trump administration to replace and upgrade the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal — at a projected cost of upward of $1.5 trillion over the next 30 years.  It’s a project that will perpetuate, until at least 2075, the little-known role that my tribe—the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota—plays in U.S. National Security policy: to be a nuclear target. You’re listening to Scientific American’s podcast series The Missiles on Our Rez. I’m Ella Weber, a member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, a Princeton student, and a journalist.  This is Episode 3: “The Air Force’s New Nuclear Missile.”  In this episode, we’ll be talking about how the Air Force came to our reservation to present its new missile project to the tribe, and how this fits into the broader patterns that have characterized our historical relationship with the U.S. government. [CLIP: Air Force environmental impact statement video: “The National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, is a federal law that requires federal agencies to integrate environmental values into their decision-making process. NEPA review is required when a federal action is proposed that may have impacts on the human or natural environment. NEPA includes requirements for involvement of the public and government entities and, in the case of this project, 62 Native American Tribes.”]  Weber: Under the National Environmental Policy Act, the U.S. Air Force is required to produce an environmental impact statement. In this case, it’s to “analyze the potential effects on the human and natural environments from deployment of the Sentinel intercontinental ballistic missile system.” Also, it’s to “provide the public and other stakeholders an opportunity to comment on the action and associated analyses, and to consider all alternatives.” [CLIP: MHA Nation honor song] Weber: The Fort Berthold reservation was the first place picked by the Air Force to present this report at a public hearing and collect public comments on the record. This was an opportunity for the Air Force to connect with the MHA Nation and to explain the military branch’s plans and what they meant for the reservation.  Unfortunately, this isn’t exactly what happened. Logan Davis: That public hearing? Meaningless. You know why it’s meaningless? Because nobody was really informed, nobody was able to give the testimony they wanted to do, and nobody had a clear picture because nobody was prepared. I certainly wasn’t prepared. Weber: Logan Davis is a freelance journalist, an army veteran and an elder of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa of North Dakota. He’s been reporting on the MHA Nation for a long time and happened to be on the reservation that day. He learned about the EIS meeting by chance. [CLIP: Music]  Davis: I was eating, talking, visiting, and I saw this policeman that’s a friend of mine. He’s like, “Hey Logan, you going to that environmental impact study meeting?” I was like, “What?” I’m a journalist, and nobody told me. I didn’t know about it until this cop called me.  So nobody knew about it. So I was calling people, “Hey, you gotta get over here; you gotta testify,” you know? Weber: Davis’s struggle to find where the meeting was taking place was confusing. The Air Force had advertised for weeks in local newspapers and on the radio that the meeting would take place at the New Town Powwow grounds. But for some reason, the location of the meeting was changed last minute—to the Four Bears Casino. Davis: The cop was there. I sat with him. And I said, “Are you going to testify?” “Oh, I don’t know,” he goes. “If somebody else does.” And I just looked around, and there is just very few people from this community. It was mostly Air Force people. Nobody told any of the journalists or any news person. It was so highly secretive. And that bothers me. So they did this whole video thing [on] how great it’s going to be, blah, blah, blah, jobs, and it was just like, okay, you guys are not telling the truth. Weber: In case you’re wondering, the video that’s being talked about is the one that we played at the beginning of this episode. It’s about the environmental impact statement of the Sentinel Program. Davis: They never talked about war. They didn’t talk about jobs. They talked about how it’s going to benefit the community, for the most part.  My forte is journalism—and I started asking questions and they took the general out of the meeting, out of the building, out of the area of testimony. They left! And then we’re, they said we’re going to have an intermission.  When we come back, they were starting the public testimony. But where the hell is the chairman, where the hell is the major general? They should be here listening to the public testimony.  Weber: As it turned out, Davis was the only one who had filled the sign-in sheet at the meeting entrance. And he was called up first. Davis: I’ve always felt nervous about being in North Dakota because there’s so many nuclear missiles here. I testified that I know there’s always a chance for incidents and accidents and nuclear accidents. They’re not all going to be like Chernobyl, but it could be. And when you’re messing with warheads, you know, you have to be, you know, so precise, and, you know, there’s a process and procedure and safety. Weber: So Logan’s a reporter. But he was also stationed in Germany in the 1970s, when the country had short-range nuclear missiles, so he has some prior knowledge in this area. Davis: I’m not the most smartest, the most knowledgeable, about nuclear missiles. I do know enough that it’s a dangerous occupation. I mean, any kind of amount of radiation exposure can kill you or hurt you—lessen your health. Weber: Someone else spoke up, too. Jerry Ruth Birds Bill Ford: Jerry Ruth Birds Bill Ford. My mother is a Cherokee from Oklahoma, from Claremore, Oklahoma. And my dad is Lawrence Birds Bill, from here. He’s Mandan and Hidatsa. Weber: Jerry was one of the two women that testified that day after Logan spoke up. She’s married to a retired Air Force colonel. Her daughter’s in the Air Force, too. I asked what  brought her to testify that day. Birds Bill Ford: Well, they asked me if there was a close working relationship between the tribe and the, and the United States Air Force. And I tell them no, there wasn’t one at all, that everyone here knew that there were silos on the reservation, but there was just, like, little-to-no communication between the Air Force and the tribe.  Weber: If you listened to the previous episode, you’ll know that there are 15 nuclear missile silos on the reservation itself. But Jerry didn’t know there were that many. Birds Bill Ford: There are 15? I couldn’t remember. All on the reservation? Or…okay…wow. I didn’t know that.  Weber: During her testimony, Jerry suggested that the Air Force develop a permanent partnership with the Tribal Council itself and the representatives of a higher level. Despite the fact that the Air Force changed the location of the actual meeting with the tribe so close to the event that the chairman and veterans went to the wrong location, Major General Michael Lutton, commander of the 20th Air Force, came on the reservation to talk about how grateful he was to the tribe for showing up.  [CLIP: Major General Michael Lutton speaking at visit to the MHA Nation: “And when you combine knowledge and time, you have wisdom. And we’re so thankful for your time and the time of the people here, and we look forward to cooperation as we share a common goal to defend our nation and our land. Thank you so much.”] Weber: In an e-mailed statement in response to this reporting, the Air Force said, “The National Weather Service issued a severe weather storm wind advisory alert for Northwest and North Central North Dakota for July 18, and 19, 2022. MHA Leadership, Veterans Groups, Tribal Law Enforcement, security and facility security directors consulted with each other.   The decision was made for the protection of human health, safety and cultural resources that the hearing be moved to the planned back up, indoor venue, 4 Bears Casino and Lodge.”  Though there was one severe weather alert for those dates, on the day of the hearing on July 19, 2022, it was sunny by 4:15 P.M. local time, prior to the meeting’s start at 5:30 P.M.  I asked Logan if, during its 30-minute PowerPoint presentation, the Air Force had discussed the role of the silos in U.S. nuclear strategy, the rationale behind the modernization program and the risks that are involved for the tribe, if nuclear war or accidents were to occur. Davis: The only thing they talked about is that they were going to make sure everything was safe. We have to take it for granted and, and rely on that word of the military and the politicians. Weber: During Major General Lutton’s visit to the tribe, he exchanged gifts with the MHA Nation’s chairman, Mark Fox.  Six months later, Fox signed a programmatic agreement with the Air Force. The agreement streamlines the exchange of historically and culturally relevant information of sites that could be impacted by the missile modernization program, which will include deploying Sentinel and quote “decommissioning and disposing of the Minuteman III ICBM system.”  In its e-mailed statement, the Air Force said that, quote, “the radiological effects of a strategic nuclear attack on the continental United States are beyond the scope of this Environmental Impact Statement.”  Mark Fox, the MHA Nation’s chairman, did not reply to several requests for comment.  MHA was one of two tribal nations to sign this agreement out of 63. Davis: Did we really need that Minuteman change? Do they really? I mean, it’s not going to really deter any more than they already have. Nothing will change because nothing is really—we don’t know if it’s going to affect us except if there’s an accident. [CLIP: Music]  We’re supposed to be protective of the land. You see, the system has changed us—changed the last couple generations to not respect the land like we’re supposed to. Our ancestral teachings as Native Americans teach us to respect, honor Mother Earth, not to put toxics, crap in her. Weber: This was a lot to take in. I asked Logan what made him speak up so freely today, especially considering the fact that he’s been worried about retribution in the past. Davis: I’m trying to protect the environment and my grandchildren’s future. And my little granddaughter, she’s born today. I want to come into a world that’s safe and secure and doesn’t have to have the dreams and nightmares I did when I was a little boy worried about nuclear war.  Weber: To better understand who in the tribal government had been consulted about the environmental impact statement, I met Edmund Baker, environmental director of the reservation, who is responsible for enforcing the Three Affiliated Tribes’ environmental protection code. You might recognize him from the previous episode. I told him about the EIS hearing. Weber (tape): I guess they said, like, it was like a town hall, community-type meeting. But ... Edmund Baker: Really? Weber (tape): Yeah. Baker: Well, you understand that [on] the reservation, there’s sort of the official release of information, either in a newspaper or maybe on the radio. But even so I haven’t heard the guys in the office mentioning anything like this. I'm a little surprised that—I don’t know what they think of this office. Maybe in the scheme of things, with all the projects going on—and this is a busy council—that if you’re going to deal with such things as government-to-government relations and a re-signing or an extension or an agreement to keep nuclear warheads within or near your tribal nation’s homeland, that somehow [the] Environmental Division might be somewhat relevant. Weber: Edmund wasn’t exactly thrilled. Baker: I’m  just trying to imagine how they see us. Maybe they see us as “This is not important to them. They handle the oil field” or—I don’t know what they’re thinking, actually. But what surprises me most is [that] this has not been an issue. Weber: Given his experiences with environmental impact studies and other permitting issues, I asked Edmund whether it was important for members of the tribe to know what would be the potential nuclear risks associated with living with the silos. Baker: You know, just technically speaking, I don’t—if you’re going into another person’s house, we’ll say—well, we’ll make this candid.  [CLIP: Music] Let’s say you come into my house. You want to build something in there. You think it’ll be good for me. And you’re going to tell me, “Oh, this is what it does. I’m not going to harm anything.” And I ask you, “Okay, well, what are the risks?”  And you tell me. At that point, I have the ability—now, this is small scale, but these concepts are in there—I have the ability to say, “No. That ain’t gonna fly here. Thank you. Have a good time. I’ll see you later. No. Door closed.”  In a lot of sense, that’s, that’s what the EIS sort of functions as, right?  [CLIP: Music] Weber: In the next episode, I will interview nuclear weapons experts to better understand what was not discussed during the EIS public hearing: the real risks for the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation from living with nuclear silos on our lands. This show was reported by me, Ella Weber, produced by Sébastien Philippe and Tulika Bose. Script editing by Tulika Bose. Post-production design and mixing by Jeff DelViscio. Thanks to special advisor Ryo Morimoto and Jessica Lambert.  Music by Epidemic Sound. I’m Ella Weber, and this was The Missiles on Our Rez, a special podcast collaboration from Scientific American, Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security, Nuclear Princeton, and Columbia Journalism School.

Neighborhoods get little guidance about toxic risks after massive Tustin hangar fire

The blaze that incinerated one of Tustin's cavernous World War II-era hangars is finally out. But neighbors say they've received little communication about the risks they may face from toxins in the ash and scattered debris.

Johnny Schillereff and his wife, Kori, never worried about their home’s proximity to the historic Tustin hangars. If anything, the cavernous wooden structures made the Columbus Square neighborhood where they settled after moving from Newport Beach three years ago even more attractive. They’d have family dinners on their front porch and watch the moon illuminate the north hangar, which is visible through the trees that line the neighborhood park across the street. In a slice of Orange County sometimes described as sanitized, the 80-year-old relic of military history lent an aura of nostalgia, evoking a past that predated the region’s orderly planned communities and convenient access to shopping. But on Nov. 7, the couple and their 18-year-old son woke to a smoke-filled neighborhood. The towering flames consuming the north hangar were visible from their front door. Ash and debris — later found to contain asbestos — rained down. Some neighbors, worried the fire would reach their homes, used garden hoses to soak their roofs. Others packed up their cars and left. Many assumed the fire’s impacts would be short-lived. But the 17-story hangar smoldered for more than a week, and residents have struggled to get information about the fallout on air quality and airborne contaminants, including when debris will be removed from their properties.“Our son is completely freaked out over it, so I have to stay calm so that he isn’t afraid,” Kori Schillereff said. “But it’s so difficult finding any information about what we should do. I’m getting most of my information from Nextdoor.” On Thursday afternoon, after burning for more than a week, the two massive concrete doors on either side of the north hangar and a sliver of one of the walls were all that remained. What’s left of the building will be demolished; officials have not set a timeline. “It’s almost like if you bought a house on a lakefront. You buy the house because you like the vibe of the lake — and the lake just dries up,” Johnny Schillereff said. “This thing is just gone.” Even as neighbors mourn the loss of the monumental structure, many are frustrated with how the fire was managed and a lack of clear communication about their exposure and risk level. While the property is owned by the Navy, a mix of government agencies have been involved in the firefight and aftermath, including the Orange County Fire Authority and the South Coast Air Quality Management District. “Our biggest frustration overall is that there’s just nobody in charge,” said Jeff Lawrence, who lives in the nearby Columbus Grove neighborhood. “Everything’s just a mess because there’s not coordination and every agency is just independently doing their own thing with no real communication with the community.” In the early hours of the fire, officials said there were no concerns about asbestos exposure. But the presence of asbestos and other metals in the World War II-era building has been documented in reports dating back years. On the day of the fire, the South Coast Air Quality Management District deployed a mobile monitor to measure for hazardous substances in the air, including lead and arsenic. That day, “for short periods of time” the monitor recorded elevated levels of lead and arsenic inside the smoke plume, according to information posted on the city of Tustin’s website. On the second day of the fire, the air quality district placed monitors at four locations near the hangars — Veterans Sports Park, the Orange County Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy, Legacy Magnet Academy and Amalfi Apartments — to test for asbestos. Samples collected Nov. 8-12 showed no asbestos, according to reports. In the days that followed, the Navy, city of Tustin, Environmental Protection Agency and air quality district deployed 51 air monitors across a roughly 3.5-mile radius around the hangar. They found particulate matter to be “well below any level of concern,” according to the city. But asbestos has been detected in samples of ash and debris collected at Veterans Sports Park and near the hangar. The air quality district wrote the materials “should be considered hazardous and avoided.” As the fire continued to burn, strong Santa Ana winds fueled concerns that contaminated materials could be carried across the county. “More systematic sampling is really needed to determine what’s going on at the community level,” said Michael Kleinman, a UC Irvine professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health. This, he added, should include sampling upwind and downwind of the fire and analyzing how the wind may have affected debris movement. Asbestos is a mineral fiber that until the 1970s was widely used in building products and insulation materials because of its resistance to heat and corrosion. The material, which has been linked to mesothelioma and other lung cancers, is no longer widely used. However, it’s still found in older buildings, including the hangars, which were built in 1942. Asbestos becomes a health hazard when the dust becomes airborne and is inhaled. The fibers can embed in human lungs and cause issues years later. While there’s no safe level of exposure, Kleinman said, “the risk goes up the more you’re exposed with higher doses and with a longer exposure time.” On Friday, five members of Congress who represent Orange County sent a letter to the South Coast Air Quality Management District pushing for additional testing on air quality and debris.When the fire broke out, parents sent their children to school with the understanding they would be kept indoors because of poor air quality. But amid early confusion, not all schools complied, and at least one parent said his child came home bearing plastic bags of debris from the fire that had blown onto the elementary school campus. The Tustin Unified School District later closed all campuses and hired a contractor to clean schools before they reopened. As of Friday, about a dozen campuses remained closed. Still, some parents worry their kids were exposed to asbestos. “My daughter has her friend group chats, and the kids talk about cancer now,” Lawrence said. “You don’t really think about that as a topic 10- or 11-year-olds should be discussing on a daily basis.” Some residents have paid to get the interiors of their homes tested. One report provided to The Times by a Columbus Square homeowner said asbestos was detected on the kitchen and living room floors.On Thursday afternoon, crews dressed in white hazmat suits with respirators walked streets near the hangar collecting debris in trash bags. John Avalos, who lives roughly a mile from the hangars, was one of several people who stopped by the site to take photos of what remained. Rain from a day earlier seemed to have extinguished the last remnants of fire. “I’ve been taking photos just to see how it’s been progressing, because there have been so many flare-ups,” Avalos said. “It’s really sad.” Thursday was the first day since the fire erupted that the Schillereff family felt it was OK to take their long-haired dachshund, Mr. Rogers, out for a walk rather than ferrying him by car to the community dog park. Even so, strolling through the neighborhood park, they wondered just how safe it was.“We’re still getting mixed information,” Johnny Schillereff said. “And it’s not very comforting when you go out to walk your dog and there’s still people walking around in hazmat suits picking up debris.”

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