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FutureStarrContaminated Waste Shipments From Ohio Derailment to Resume
Federal environmental authorities announced Sunday that contaminated waste shipments from the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train in East Palestine, Ohio will resume on Monday to two approved sites. Earlier this month, the train derailed and released toxic chemicals which forced residents to flee their homes.
Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered Norfolk Southern to halt shipments so it could examine how it was disposing of hazardous materials from its train derailment. Some liquid and solid waste has already been sent to facilities in Michigan and Texas for processing.
Monday, federal environmental officials confirmed that contaminated waste from a train derailment in Ohio will resume shipping to approved disposal facilities. EPA Region 5 administrator Debra Shore confirmed this by telling The Associated Press (AP) that two approved sites in the state have been restored for shipment.
The EPA has ordered Norfolk Southern to cease transporting hazardous waste from the site of a fiery derailed train earlier this month in East Palestine, Ohio, until officials can review their routes and facilities. So far 15 truckloads of contaminated soil were sent to a landfill in Michigan and five trucks carrying liquid waste were headed for Texas facilities.
Testing by EPA has revealed that wastewater and soil in California are contaminated with vinyl chloride, phosphene, benzene and various volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) commonly used in firefighting foam. Public health experts warn these chemicals pose a danger to human health and the environment.
On Friday, President Joe Biden directed a team of federal workers to visit homes in affected communities to assess their situation and provide resources. These teams will be similar to the "walk teams" deployed after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria to assess damage and help people cope with natural disasters.
At present, hazardous waste disposal facilities near Houston and Detroit are expected to receive most of the contaminated water and soil from the derailment. Unfortunately, these locations have a history of issues; thus it's uncertain how chemicals will be managed or where they'll end up after processing.
House Republicans have launched an investigation into the incident. In a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer demanded more details about the derailment and why its leadership seemed indifferent to it.
In addition to EPA's order to cease shipping contaminated waste, there are other issues that need addressing as the cleanup progresses. These include transporting drinking water in trucks previously used for oil field operations or other commercial purposes that may contain toxic constituents that make it unfit for human consumption. EPA has additionally issued emergency orders to two companies transporting water to New Orleans, Louisiana, ordering them to cease using those trucks until their contents can be tested for hazardous material contamination.
The Environmental Protection Agency has indicated that the shipment of contaminated waste from East Palestine's train derailment site will resume "very soon," as shipments that had been sent elsewhere are returned to Ohio. Shore stressed it was in residents' best interests for this material to be moved out of town promptly.
Meanwhile, air and water testing is ongoing. At a Saturday press conference, Shore also revealed that 574 homes had been tested for indoor air quality. She noted that outside air monitoring stations continue to check for contaminants; no levels of concern have been found thus far.
She stressed that residents can continue to use bottled water and municipal drinking water is safe. However, those who get their drinking water from private wells should arrange testing with an independent consultant, according to the expert.
Vogel noted that people should consult their healthcare providers if they have any worries about water or air quality, as some residents have reported symptoms associated with cancer or other diseases caused by the derailment. She added that people can also take steps to protect themselves by following EPA guidelines to minimize future exposure.
On the other hand, several Democratic senators demanded that the EPA test for dioxins, a group of chemical compounds formed when substances burn and break down slowly. In a letter sent to EPA Administrator Michael Regan and Ohio EPA Director Anne Vogel, Brown and Vance expressed their worries that burning vinyl chloride may have dispersed dioxins throughout communities.
According to the National Cancer Institute, burning vinyl chloride - commonly found in PVC pipes and other products - can lead to various forms of cancer. Furthermore, this substance may cause other serious ailments such as heart disease and respiratory issues.
On February 3rd, hundreds of East Palestine residents attended a town hall meeting organized by East Palestine Justice--an organization comprised of lawyers, environmental experts and medical professionals--to hear state and federal officials address their dilemma.
After hearing from Brockovich and other speakers, many in the crowd applauded the EPA's decision. However, others expressed their dissatisfaction with lack of action taken after the derailment. They demanded a more thorough investigation into how hazardous materials were handled at the company, as well as why no action had been taken earlier on. Furthermore, they demanded greater oversight over long distance transportation in general.
The Environmental Protection Agency has temporarily stopped shipping toxic waste from an Ohio train derailment after receiving numerous complaints from residents and local officials. This decision by the EPA comes as a huge setback for Houston-based company Waste Management, which transports hazardous waste nationwide.
In addition to being a huge obstacle for the waste-contaminated dump, the decision to pause transports also serves as a stark indication of the growing rift between Texas GOP and state's Latino communities. South Texas, which is heavily Hispanic and traditionally Democratic, has seen Republican candidates strive for decades to increase their support in that region. They argue that every extra Republican vote adds up to two votes, effectively taking away an already reliable Democratic vote from them.
A fierce fight is underway in Texas' Hispanic community, and analysts expect it to continue for years as these voters make their presence felt on the national political stage. A New York Times analysis of regional politics revealed a shift taking place at an unprecedented speed that has nationwide implications.
One aspect of the transformation is an increase in partisanship. As Republicans gain ground in South Texas, they're advocating for a more conservative agenda.
A seismic shift has taken place, from the Justice Charter in San Antonio to a comprehensive tax relief plan being considered by lawmakers. In the Senate, Senators Royce West (D-Dallas) and Bob Hall (R-Edgewood) filed a bill which would reduce the state sales tax rate to its lowest level since 1980s. Furthermore, it would raise homestead exemption on school property taxes from $40,000 to $70,000 - providing significant relief for homeowners in the region.
West also noted that much of the tax relief talk has focused on homeowners, but he feels strongly that renters aren't getting their fair share. That is why he co-authored a bill which would provide relief for renters as well as lower property tax rates for businesses.
Jim Squires and CMO Alan Shaw expressed to employees their commitment to service delivery and customer experience, affirming the railroad's dedication to an environmentally responsible cleanup of East Palestine, Ohio. Furthermore, they noted how Norfolk Southern is continuing to support the local community by creating a charitable fund to aid with relief efforts.
After residents from several states voiced their dissatisfaction, the EPA ordered a stop to contaminated waste shipments leaving the site. They want to guarantee materials are disposed of according to federal safety standards. But Debra Shore, Regional Administrator for EPA Region 8, said Sunday that railroad could resume transporting materials away from the facility this week.
EPA officials will be closely observing every step of the process, from shipping to disposal sites and disposing of waste, according to Ms. Walsh. Some liquid waste will be buried deep underground in an injection well in Vickery, Ohio; other solid waste will be burned at an incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio.
According to a report in the Washington Post, EPA officials report that some of the liquid waste removed from the train site has already been shipped to Texas Molecular in Houston and another portion to an injection well in Vickery. However, they are awaiting responses from railroad and other companies as to where exactly 581,500 gallons of hazardous waste will be disposed.
Unfortunately, some of the contaminated waste remains at a site in East Palestine where firefighters have been working to clean it up. According to EPA reports, some of this material may still be present in soil at the location; workers will continue their work to determine whether it's safe for humans to ingest.
Some of the contaminated material is also in groundwater, and EPA officials are conducting an evaluation of water quality at the site. They plan to install groundwater monitoring wells that will measure contaminant levels beneath the surface.
On Sunday, thousands of protesters filled Mexico City's main plaza to oppose President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's electoral law reforms, which many fear could return Mexico back to the corrupt practices of its Institutional Revolutionary Party. The changes will alter who can finance campaigns, oversee voting in remote regions and ensure voter ID cards remain secure.
Tens of thousands of people have turned out in Mexico's main square for a second straight day on Sunday to protest President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's goal of remaking the country's independent elections agency, sounding a warning that Mexican democracy could be at a tipping point. Demonstrators say the reforms would cut the INE's budget and staffing, limit its autonomy and restrict its ability to punish political candidates who break electoral laws.
The National Electoral Institute is a publicly-funded agency that oversees federal and state-level elections. It has been in existence since the 1990s, when it was created by a series of reforms to the government's electoral code.
As a result of these reforms, the IFE now has a General Council of only nine members: a president, eight Electoral Councilors elected by two-thirds vote in the Chamber of Deputies and an independent citizen member who is also a representative of a nonpartisan party. The independence of these citizens is one of the reasons why the IFE has been able to avoid the kinds of vote miscounting, campaign spending and electoral pressure tactics that were common in Mexico before it was established.
However, a large part of the INE's legitimacy rests on its partisan leadership, which is chosen by a nominating committee and confirmed by Congress to staggered 9-year terms that are meant to outlast congressional and presidential tenures (Mexican presidents serve for six years and cannot be reelected). The INE also has a number of specialized bodies, including an Oversight Unit for the Resources of Political Parties and an Electoral Tribunal, which are supervised by a magistrate who is appointed by the Supreme Court.
INE's former president, Luis Carlos Ugalde, said that it was important to have clean elections and build trust. He argued that INE's offices should be kept as small as possible to save money, but he warned that the changes to INE could result in poor elections and the agency not being able to properly oversee them.
While Mexico has been a relatively free country for over twenty years, its democracy is still imperfect, says Gonzales. It has been a difficult process for the regime to convince its opposition that the electoral arena is their place of expression, he says. For that reason, it has resorted to tinkering with the democratic rules of elections to reduce uncertainty and still convince its opponents that the election is their best way to challenge the regime's power.
On Sunday, thousands of people packed Mexico City's central plaza to protest electoral reforms that President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has labeled a threat to democracy. This demonstration marked the latest in a string of mass demonstrations against him since he took office four years ago.
Two weeks prior, thousands of opposition supporters marched in opposition to Lopez Obrador's plans for electoral reform that they say would give him greater power over Mexico's ruling institutions. The main square, typically held by around 100,000 people, became overrun with protestors who spilled out onto nearby streets.
People interviewed on the street reported that many participants came voluntarily, while dozens were forced to participate by government forces. As hundreds of buses lined the streets to transport them away, it appeared many came voluntarily.
Some demonstrators were against Lopez Obrador's plan to reduce the number of federal judges and agencies responsible for overseeing elections and other aspects of Mexico's democratic process. They warned it could lead to a return of election fraud, overspending and vote buying that plagued Mexican politics before an independent electoral institute was created in the 1990s.
Others criticized the fact that some top electoral officials are paid more than the president himself. They suggested limiting salaries of officials who supervise elections to less than half that of a president or paying them only when they are elected.
The president has promised to reduce the budget of the National Electoral Institute (INE) and reduce salaries for its employees. Furthermore, he called for reform of the country's legal system.
Lopez Obrador has persevered despite these difficulties to garner popular support and an approval rating of over 60%, according to opinion polls. While he has failed to significantly improve the economy or reduce violence in Mexico, he remains popular with those who need most his policies: the poor and disadvantaged.
On Thursday, Lopez Obrador declared that after his six-year term ends he would retire from politics. This statement was more definitive than previous indications he may seek another term and suggests he views himself as a one-term president. With Latin America's current slide into authoritarianism, this declaration sends an unmistakable signal that democracy will remain respected.
On Sunday, thousands of Mexicans marched in Mexico City's streets in opposition to President Lopez Obrador's plan to reform Mexico's independent elections agency. This reform would cut budget and staffing for the agency, limit its autonomy, and hinder punishment of political candidates who violate electoral laws.
The protests revealed widespread dissatisfaction with how Mexico's government handles elections. They also suggested that democracy in Mexico had reached a critical juncture.
Protests are an essential tool for drawing attention to injustice, demanding accountability, and inspiring hope that things can improve. Unfortunately, they also face threats of suppression by governments or those in power.
Despite these difficulties, social movements around the world have utilized technology in order to expose corruption and fraud, demand a more equitable society, and build more democratic nations.
Many of history's most significant social movements have been protests, such as civil rights and student movements from the 1960s, Black Lives Matter campaign, Women's March on Washington, and anti-racist initiatives from 1970s and 1980s.
Experts estimate that the recent Black Lives Matter protests, which reached their peak on June 6, drew a total of half a million people to nearly 550 locations across America. This is by far the largest single-day demonstration in recent American history and not far off from what took part in last year's women's march.
Though most protests were peaceful, some turned violent. Clashes between protesters and counter-demonstrators have been reported, and police have often used excessive force to suppress them.
The demonstration has had a profound effect on the electoral reform process, compelling both PRI and PAN to reevaluate their electoral strategies.
Additionally, the protests have cast doubt upon the credibility of PRI's electoral processes and given opposition parties a stronger political presence.
Now that the mid-term elections have concluded, PRI and PAN can discuss further electoral reforms. They may seek to amend the constitution in order to create a platform for economic and political changes as well as increase voter security.
On Sunday, hundreds of thousands gathered in Mexico City's main plaza to protest President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's electoral reforms that they claim threaten democracy and could usher in a return to the past. Protesters filled the heart of the capital and spilled onto nearby streets as they demanded an immediate halt to any changes to the election process.
Lopez Obrador has long criticized the electoral institute, alleging it to be controlled by an elite. To address this problem, he wants to reduce its budget and restrict supervisory and sanctioning powers. Opponents have immediately declared they would take legal action against any changes in the supreme court.
The institute is responsible for monitoring federal elections and issuing a secure voter ID card. Furthermore, it serves as an impartial mediator in disputes pertaining to elections.
Elections in Mexico are overseen by three levels of legal authority: the National Electoral Institute, state and local governments, and courts. All parties must abide by the regulations established by this institute.
Despite the institute's efforts to reduce fraud and vote manipulation, it still faces challenges. In August 2018, a gubernatorial election in Guanajuato was marred by allegations of vote fraud and street protests. The results, which gave Ramon Aguirre victory, sparked an outbreak of post-election violence that saw dozens killed and hundreds injured.
Furthermore, the federal government has been accused of manipulating elections in several states such as Chihuahua and Quintana Roo. The PRI has also been accused of voter intimidation in certain places and has been forced to drop candidates based on fraud allegations during some contests such as the 1996 presidential election.
Opposition parties in Mexico have called for stricter voter identification requirements and more transparent ballot boxes, as well as a faster count of votes at polling places - an essential factor in Mexican elections.
During the Salinas administration, Mexico's political parties debated a series of proposals for electoral reform that sought to eliminate voting irregularities during elections and create a more democratic party system. In the end, they came up with an updated electoral code which was approved by 85 percent of Chamber of Deputies members.