HINKLEY, Calif. – At the end of “Erin Brockovich,” a housewife sick from toxic chromium weeps with joy as she’s handed her portion of a historic $333 million settlement between residents of this small desert town and the utility that poisoned their drinking water.
In real life, that woman is Roberta Walker. She still lives in Hinkley, using her share to buy a new home in what she thought would be a safe four-mile distance from the toxic plume of chromium.
Earlier this year, she and other residents learned that the pollution, which Pacific Gas & Electric was required to clean up, was once again moving and had seeped into their groundwater.
Now, Brockovich has returned to the town that made her famous and is once again rallying residents, sampling the water, and at a water board meeting on Wednesday, her associate is expected to announce that the contamination may be worse than the utility says.
For Walker and others involved in the original case, these developments are like stepping back in time and are a haunting reminder that a landmark lawsuit and a blockbuster movie are no guarantee of safety. “We didn’t bring a giant to its knees, all we did was wake it up,” Walker said. “This is not happening again — I can’t believe it.”
HARRISBURG – A three-story brownstone where former Gov. Tom Ridge has offices for his lobbying firm became ground zero Wednesday in the fight over Pennsylvania’s proposed new budget. About 250 advocates from organized labor, environmental groups, and social services carried out a surprise ambush on Ridge’s firm, which represents companies drilling for gas in the Marcellus Shale. They delivered this message: If the proposed budget will slice education funding, then it should also make big drilling companies pay taxes on the natural gas they extract.
Clutching signs and chanting slogans, most of the activists swarmed into the Ridge Policy Group, just a block from the Capitol, shortly after 2 p.m. They poured through the unlocked doors and began packing rooms on the first and second floors, demanding that someone from the lobbying firm come speak to them.
With their stomping feet causing the floorboards to creak and groan – and likely breaking fire codes – they finally got the attention of Mark Campbell, a partner in the firm and Ridge’s onetime chief of staff. He talked briefly to organizers and promised to tell his clients that activists wanted to speak with them.
“We’ll be back,” the activists warned as the group finally left about 15 minutes later with chants of “No Free Pass for Oil and Gas.” They left a mock invoice for the millions in taxes they say could have been collected from an extraction tax.
I hope you all understand that there are so many shameful Republican tactics in play right now, I can’t keep up. More to the point, I reach overload and have to pull back, just to save my own sanity.
But the “radical Islam” hearings being held by blowhard wingnut Peter King (who had no problem at all with supporting the IRA) do deserve out attention. Watch Keith Ellison break down as he defends a Muslim friend who died in the World Trade Center:
The majority of American soldiers undergoing amputation for war wounds last fall lost more than one limb, according to data presented Tuesday to the Defense Health Board, a committee of experts that advises the Defense Department on medical matters.
Military officials had previously released data showing that amputations, and especially multiple-limb losses, increased last year. The information presented to the 20-member board is the first evidence that the steepest increase occurred over the last four months of the year.