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Environmental Scientist

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Citgo’s Corpus Christi Environmental Crimes: Too Big to Punish

After seven years of waiting, Corpus Christi pollution victims finally learned what restitution they’ll be receiving from Citgo Petroleum Corp.: nothing. Last week, a federal district judge determined that residents of a neighborhood exposed to toxic chemicals from Citgo’s Corpus refinery weren’t due any compensation, including medical expenses or relocation costs.

In 2007, a jury convicted Citgo of violating the Clean Air Act, a first for a major oil company. The company had illegally stored oil in two uncovered tanks, exposing nearby residents to toxic chemicals including the carcinogen benzene. It took seven years for U.S. District Judge John D. Rainey to sentence the company, finally ruling in February that Citgo owed $2 million—a paltry sum next to the $1 billion prosecutors argued the company had earned from its illegal operation. Still, victims held out hope for some restitution.

On Wednesday, Rainey denied victims any restitution, including funding to pay for annual cancer screenings and other diseases that could be linked to chemical exposures. The Justice Department had requested that Citgo set up a fund to cover relocation costs, and another for victims’ future medical expenses, for a total of $30 million in restitution for victims and $25 million for the government.

Ironically, Rainey wrote that determining how much victims are really owed would “unduly delay the sentencing process” and “outweighs the need to provide restitution to any victims.”



Republicans Block Hearing on Long-Term Jobless Benefits

Before leaving for recess, the Senate finally passed a bipartisan five-month extension of benefits for Americans who have been unemployed for six months or longer. Since the benefits lapsed at the beginning of 2014, more than 2 million workers have been affected, and the economy lost $3 billion in January and February alone.

Now the debate has shifted to the House, and this week Democrats are set to pressure Speaker John Boehner to take up the Senate bill. A fairly routine hearing of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, where several prominent House Democrats would appear along with some long-term jobless Americans affected by the expiration.

But early Tuesday morning, hours before the scheduled hearing, Republican leadership in the House inexplicably denied the committee the space it had booked in the Rayburn House Office Building. Democrats then scrambled to convert it into a press event, to be held outside on the Capitol steps.

Reporters planning to cover the event noticed some unusual behind-the-scenes tumult, as the announced room space changed several times in twenty-four hours: it changed once on Monday to an alternate space in Rayburn, then again on Tuesday morning to the Capitol Visitor’s Center, followed by an announcement that it would be held outside.


Great Barrier Reef's 'unprecedented' threat from dredging, dumping

The Hay Point coal terminal. Photograph: Greenpeace/AAP

The impact of dredging and dumping sediment on the Great Barrier Reef has been far greater than the mining industry has claimed, with nearly 150m tonnes of new dredging set to take place in the reef’s waters, a study shows.

The report collated by the Australian Marine Conservation Society states that the reef is under “unprecedented” threat from the proposed expansion of coastal ports and industrial development.

Planned expansion of ports, or the creation of new ones, at sites including Gladstone, the Fitzroy Delta, Abbot Point and Townsville, would involve dredging 149m tonnes of seabed to allow large ships to access ports.

The society’s report warns that the dredging process is dangerous to marine life. Worse, should this sediment be dumped within the Great Barrier Reef world heritage area, corals and seagrasses would be damaged, impacting animals such as dugongs and sea turtles.



Thai prime minister ousted, found guilty of abuse of power

Source: LA Times

Thailand's prime minister was forced to resign Wednesday after the Constitutional Court found her guilty in an abuse of power case, pushing the country deeper into political turmoil.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was charged with abusing her authority by transferring a senior civil servant in 2011 to another position. The court ruled that the transfer was carried out with a "hidden agenda" to benefit her politically powerful family and, therefore, violated the constitution, an accusation she has denied.

The court ruling marks the latest dramatic twist in Thailand's long-running political crisis. It was a victory for Yingluck's opponents who for the past six months have been engaged in vociferous and sometimes violent street protests demanding she step down to make way for an interim unelected leader.

But it does little to resolve Thailand's political crisis as it leaves the country in limbo — and primed for more violence. Since November, more than 20 have been killed and hundreds injured.

Read more: http://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-thailand-prime-minister-ousted-20140506-story.html

Georgia drunk driver hands officer beer instead of license

After striking a police car, he handed the officer a beer.

Damon Tobias Exum, 37, was a little confused, and police reported he was “heavily intoxicated” and unaware he had struck a police car early Saturday morning in Dunwoody, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta, police report.

After Exum struck a police car, he continued down a highway, police said. The officer inside was uninjured and followed him until he finally pulled over, according to the police report.

When Officer Alvin Rodriguez asked the motorist for his license he was handed a beer instead, the officer said.

“The driver was intoxicated and not making the best decisions,” Dunwoody police Officer Tim Fecht told the Daily News.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/drunk-driver-hands-officer-beer-license-police-article-1.1778951

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