Rachel's Precaution Reporter #81

"Foresight and Precaution, in the News and in the World"

Wednesday, March 14, 2007............Printer-friendly version
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Table of Contents...

Power Line Work Halted by Court Case
  A Court in British Columbia, Canada, has halted construction of a
  high-voltage power line, partly based on precautionary arguments.
Invoking Precaution, Belgium Bans Depleted Uranium Weapons
  The Belgian Chamber Commission on National Defence has taken a
  precautionary stance, voting unanimously to ban the use of depleted
  uranium "inert ammunitions and armour plates on Belgian territory."
In Defence of Red Tape
  "The concept that drives this deregulation train is referred to as
  "risk management." In the good old days of government in the public
  interest a different principle prevailed: the precautionary principle.
  That held that if there looked like there might be a problem, then you
  assumed in your decisions that there would be a problem. In other
  words, the goal used to be: err on the side of caution. Now we err on
  the side of profit."
Waste Should Be Classified Using Precaution, Says Irish Politician


From: Gulf Islands Driftwood (Salt Spring Island, B.C., Canada), Mar. 14, 2007
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By Stacy Cardigan Smith

[See last week's Precaution Reporter story on this subject.]

Gulf Islands residents living near the overhead power lines can
breathe a tentative sign of relief as work ceases on the transmission
line project for now.

"What we've done is agreed at this time that we won't be doing any
further work east of the Salt Spring sub-station," said Sharon
Wasylik, BCTC community relations coordinator Monday.

The sub-station is located at the corner of Lower Ganges and Atkins
roads and includes parts of Salt Spring, Parker and Galiano islands.

However, work will continue on the portion of Salt Spring located to
the west of the sub-station, as well as in North Cowichan.

According to Wasylik, work had not yet begun, save for an osprey nest
being relocated on Salt Spring last week.

The halt comes following pressure from groups involved in a B.C. Court
of Appeal case related to the project.

When the appeal was granted to Island Residents Against High Voltage
Overhead Lines (IRAHVOL) and Tsawwassen Residents Against High Voltage
Overhead Lines (TRAHVOL), BCTC agreed to cease construction, Wasylik

"Unfortunately, it now appears there was a misunderstanding of what
constituted overhead line construction work," she said. "We kind of
considered it pre-construction. They considered it construction."

Wasylik said pre-construction activity, including brush clearing and
road preparation, will continue as per discussions between both sides'

However, IRAHVOL representative Daria Zovi responded in an e-mail:
"The recent decision to halt construction... following media
coverage of the issue and requests from IRAHVOL's legal counsel is
welcomed with reservations by IRAHVOL. A complete stop to all
construction of this proposed power line would be the proper response
by B.C. Hydro and BCTC as two issues are before the B.C. Court of

Right to appeal was granted November 7, 2006 on two grounds.

The first concerns whether the existing right of way agreements allow
for project construction.

"British Columbia Utilities Commissioners should not have assumed that
the existing right of way agreements, acquired over 50 years ago,
permit the construction of the proposed project," wrote Zovi.

The second concerns whether the "precautionary principle" should be
applied by tribunals. The principle is "a general principle of
conduct" that many countries have applied, said Zovi.

It states that in situations of "uncertainty where risk is
considerable and long lasting, the decision makers should choose the
course of caution so they should decide for a very conservative route
because of the uncertainties," she added.

"British Columbia Utilities Commissioners were obligated to apply the
precautionary principle, which they failed to do when they considered
the health risks associated with long-term exposure to the
electromagnetic field generated by the proposed transmission lines,"
she said.

Zovi is also critical that BCTC has not informed property owners about
the court appeal.

Although the initial right to appeal was granted November 7, 2006 and
the second ground was granted on February 12, letters announcing that
the appeal has been granted and pre-construction will cease
immediately had yet to be distributed on Tuesday.

Wasylik said the letters are expected to go out this week.

"When it's sort of major things that impact whether we are or aren't
going to proceed, then we let [property owners] know," Wasylik said.

According to Zovi, "Omission to notify the public and property owners
of this crucial legal process that may overturn the British Columbia
Utilities Commission approval of the project, is, in IRAHVOL's view,
equivalent to false information."

The pre-construction is also a potential waste of public money if the
appeal is successful, Zovi said.

"It is part of what we need to do to meet our in-service date and
we're proceeding with that," countered Wasylik.

She added the project has a budget of $250 million and its in-service
date is fall 2008.

The Municipality of Hudson, Quebec won a ground-breaking case to
regulate the cosmetic use of pesticides using the same precautionary
principle in June 2001.

Zovi said IRAHVOL is currently attempting to gain support from the
World Wildlife Fund and the Suzuki Foundation, among other

"Now that we're discussing this big principle, it's important that we
have people representing these other groups."

Zovi added the case might eventually make its way to the Supreme

"[I don't know if the] best forum [for the case] is the Court of
Appeal, but if we have to go to the Supreme Court of Canada, we'll
have to decide on that," Zovi said.

For the past two years, IRAHVOL has been advocating a submarine and
underground DC cable system which goes directly to Vancouver Island
and bypasses the Gulf Islands.

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From: UK Indymedia, Mar. 13, 2007
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They were first with land mines, first with cluster bombs -- now
Belgium has become the first country in the world to ban uranium

Although the Belgian army does not currently use uranium weapons, the
ban will affect US shipments of uranium ammunition and armour plate
via the port of Antwerp.

The Belgian Chamber Commission on National Defence voted unanimously
in favour of banning the use of depleted uranium "inert ammunitions
and armour plates on Belgian territory."

Acknowledging the Precautionary Principle, the deputies agreed that
the manufacture, use, storage, sale, acquisition, supply and transit
of these conventional weapon systems should be prohibited. At the last
moment the term "weapon" was deleted to make sure that the law
proposal would not put a ban on the thermonuclear bombs that are
stored on the Air Force base of Kleine Brogel.

In a few weeks, the Commission's decision will be discussed in the
full Parliament and the Senate. This will be only a question of
formality. The ruling has made Belgium the first country in the world
to ban ammunitions and armour that contain depleted uranium or any
other industrially manufactured uranium. Because it was purported that
the government needs time to promote such a ban outside Belgium, and
because the Dutch speaking liberal-democrat party wants to know if
other countries would be willing to follow the Belgian example, it is
now stipulated in the accepted text that the law will get into force
two years after publication in the Belgian Statute Book.

The vote was a result of intense lobbying by the Belgian Coalition
'Stop Uranium Weapons!' The coalition is a member of the International
Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW), an umbrella group of 85
members from 22 countries who are seeking to promote an independent
treaty to ban the manufacture, use, transfer, stockpiling and sale of
uranium weapons.

Belgian Coalition: 'Stop Uranium weapons!'

Campaign Against Depleted Uranium
e-mail: info@cadu.org.uk
Homepage: http://www.cadu.org.uk

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From: TheTyee.ca, Mar. 8, 2007
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Boys' Club...
You know they're gonna kill us
It's the Boys' Club
-- Parachute Club

By Murray Dobbin

It turns out that there's a lot of ways "the Boys' Club" can kill us.
One method is death by deregulation. A couple of stories in recent
days have highlighted a trend that has been eroding the public
interest and public safety for over a decade -- and all in the
interests of the corporate bottom line.

Deregulation is one of neo-liberalism's five big initiatives (free
trade, privatization, service cuts and tax cuts make up the rest). And
it shows how successfully they have framed the issue. Who in their
right mind would want more red tape?

Well, for starters, pretty much anyone who flies in Canada, eats food,
drives a car, uses prescription drugs or lives some place that could
catch fire. That's just the short list.

All you really have to do is think about the profit motive and imagine
that there were no regulations to moderate its impact. That's what
regulations are mostly about -- attempting to manage the greed
unleashed by capitalism. And neo-liberalism is all about undoing that
management system and replacing it with corporate self-regulation.
("Self-regulation" being right up there on the list of modern

Fear of flying

Virgil Moshansky is so prominent in the field of improving aviation
safety that he received Canada's highest recognition for his work,
when he was named a member of the Order of Canada in 2005. Last week
he felt compelled to intervene publicly at the Commons Transport
Committee, warning that recent cost-cutting and what he called the
complete abandonment of government oversight of private airlines were
creating the perfect conditions for more airline disasters. Moshansky
issued a now-famous report in 1989 on a crash that killed 29 people in
Dryden, Ontario which recommended major changes at Transport Canada
Now he says most of those changes have been lost: "Regulatory
oversight is not being merely reduced. Except for limited focused
audits, it is being systematically dismantled." The approach now is
self-regulation: handing over virtually every aspect of aviation
safety to the big companies. This when airline deregulation has made
competition even more cutthroat and the motivation to cut corners that
much greater.

The concept that drives this deregulation train is referred to as
"risk management." In the good old days of government in the public
interest a different principle prevailed: the precautionary principle.
That held that if there looked like there might be a problem, then you
assumed in your decisions that there would be a problem. In other
words, the goal used to be: err on the side of caution. Now we err on
the side of profit.

Blame the watchdogs

A short trip down neo-liberal memory lane is in order here. The
conflict between risk management and the precautionary principle was
highlighted back in the 1990s with some very high-profile cases in
which Canadian scientists -- dedicated to protecting the public from
dubious drugs -- were harassed and bullied by the federal government,
essentially for doing their jobs.

In 1996, Michele Brill-Edwards resigned from her job as a federal drug
reviewer at the federal Health Protection Branch (HPB) because of what
she considered to be undue industry influence in the drug approval
process. She left in a dispute over a controversial heart drug called
nifedipine, claiming that her superiors in the HPB ignored independent
research showing the drug could actually cause heart attacks, rather
than prevent them.

At about the same time five scientists assigned to evaluate BGH (the
Bovine Growth Hormone developed by Monsanto) had serious concerns
about its long-term effects, which had not been thoroughly studied.
However, when they refused to approve the drug, they were put under
relentless pressure by their superiors.

One of the five scientists, Dr. Chiv Chopra, went before a Public
Service Staff Relations Board to complain. In response, one his
managers threatened to ship him and his colleagues to other
departments where they would "never be heard of again" if they didn't
hurry their evaluations of BGH. In both cases, the companies owning
the patents were paying Health Canada for the testing. And as clients,
the firms expected positive results.

Federal spending on the HPB was cut by Paul Martin from $63 million in
1993-94 to $22 million in 1998. That money was replaced by corporate
"fees." By 1998, 70 per cent of the agency's drug review budget came
from corporate "clients."

Forget precaution

David Dodge, put in charge of "restructuring" -- read corporatizing --
Health Canada explained: "The regulatory approach is an old-fashioned
way to deal with risk...We have to operate in the face of uncertainty.
The [current] process is now geared to not making decisions. Risk
management is about maximizing benefits and minimizing risks." In
other words, applying a strictly corporate model to protecting the
health of Canadians.

The deregulation madness eventually has consequences. Planes fall from
the sky. Or, as is happening lately in the U.S., people get poisoned
by bad food. In the past six months, hundreds of people have been made
ill or dead by contaminated lettuce, spinach and, most recently,
peanut butter.

U.S. news stories highlight the fact that the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) is now conducting just half the number of food
inspections it was doing in 2003. Michael Doyle, Director of the
Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, has said "We have
a food safety crisis on the horizon." Overall food inspections have
dropped by half but inspections of U.S.-produced food has dropped 75
per cent -- to just 2,455 inspections in 2006.

When the FDA responds to criticisms, you see the same kind of language
as that used by David Dodge and other "restructuring" gurus: it's all
about risk management. Indeed, in the 1990s the government took
radical steps that not even the corporate-dominated democracy of the
U.S. dared consider. It gave to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency a
dual mandate: it was now not only responsible for protecting Canadians
from contaminated food, it was also responsible, in partnership with
business, for promoting trade in Canadian agricultural products. The
government's zeal for promoting trade led it to institutionalize a
conflict of interest that undermines food inspection.

Twin threats

It can only get worse given two initiatives that are currently working
at increasing the speed and breadth of deregulation. The first is the
deep integration initiative -- now formally called the Security and
Prosperity Partnership of North America -- which aims to harmonize all
such inspection systems to create a "single North American economy."
The SPP, driven and guided by the powerful Canadian Council of Chief
Executives, is the biggest single initiative in deregulation.
According to New Democrat MP Peter Julian "We're looking at
potentially 300 different areas where Canada is accepting lower
American standards."

The deregulation thrust goes under the Orwellian name of "smart
regulation" -- a term and a process thoroughly debunked by the
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The CCPA's Bruce Campbell
pointed out: "Growing incidence of cancer, rising asthma rates and
greater neurological disorders suggest that untested environmental
toxins may be a big part of the problem. Under current regulatory
methods, it could be decades before substances thought to be toxic,
but not proven conclusively in a scientific sense, are banned or even

The second initiative is TILMA, the B.C.-Alberta investors' rights
pact that hands over responsibility for deregulation directly to

The two measures, in fact, work hand in hand. Because a great deal of
regulatory activity in Canada happens at the provincial and municipal
level, harmonizing at the level of national governments still leaves
thousands of regulations in place. There are strong suspicions that
the federal government had a hand in pushing Albert and B.C. to take
the first step in bringing all the provinces (and municipalities) into
a massive deregulation project that would smooth the way for deep

As evidenced in the U.S. FDA example, deregulation can go on even
without legislation and with the public none the wiser. All you have
to do is slash the number of inspectors and the law or regulation can
be made all but useless. All of this is being done to enhance
"competitiveness" -- except that there is no hard evidence that
deregulation will have any impact other than to put Canadians at ever
greater risk.

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From: Kilkenny People (Kilkenny, Ireland), Mar. 14, 2007
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Kilkenny Co Council officials are investigating unauthorised deposits
on land at Ballycomey, Castlecomer.

Staff from the environment section of the local authority visited a
site in January and discovered deposits of what, from a visual
inspection, appeared to be construction waste.

Officials issued a statutory notice under the waste management laws,
requiring that dumping of material stop immediately and called for a
report to be submitted to the council detailing the type, quantity and
origin of the waste materials already deposited. The unauthorised
dumping has since stopped.

"We are still pursuing the details of the type, origin and quantity of
waste and will continue to pursue this matter until any activities
associated with the site are consistent with statutory requirements,"
a council spokesman added.

Green welcome

Cllr Mary White of the Green Party welcomed the initiative and asked
that the matter be pursued to ensure a report be submitted by the
people involved.

"Tests should be carried out to determine categorically what kind of
material is buried there," she told the Kilkenny People. "We would
also like to know where this material came from." Cllr Malcolm Noonan,
a Green Party member of Kilkenny Co Council, pointed out that Section
55 of the Waste Management Act 1996-05 gives Kilkenny County Council
wide-ranging powers in relation to the holding, recovery and disposal
of waste.

"The main thrust of this section of the act gives the local authority
power to act in order to prevent or limit environmental pollution
caused, or likely to be caused, by the holding, recovery or disposal
of waste," he said.

"If the person, upon whom the notice has been served, fails to comply
within the specified time period, the local authority may take steps
as it considers reasonable and necessary to secure compliance with the
notice, and may recover any expense incurred from the person."
He added that the law can instruct the person to remove the waste,
dispose it in a specified manner or at a specified facility and to
treat the affected lands. Failure to comply with a notice under this
section is an offence.


Cllr Noonan noted that Kilkenny County Council has clear powers to
oblige the contractors to dispose of the materials in a safe and
environmentally sound manner, regardless of cost.

"I would urge the contractors to immediately submit plans to Kilkenny
County Council to remediate the site and ensure that they are in full
compliance with regard to the transportation and disposal of such
waste in relation to the waste management act," he said.

"Much of what is often considered inert construction and demolition
waste is often likely to contain hazardous materials and should based
on the precautionary principle be subject to the same regulations as
other waste streams.

"The council has a due responsibility as the lead authority for the
issuing of waste permits to ensure that all waste streams are
accounted for within its jurisdiction." he pointed out.

Copyright 2007 Johnston Press Digital Publishing.

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  Rachel's Precaution Reporter offers news, views and practical
  examples of the Precautionary Principle, or Foresight Principle, in
  action. The Precautionary Principle is a modern way of making
  decisions, to minimize harm. Rachel's Precaution Reporter tries to
  answer such questions as, Why do we need the precautionary
  principle? Who is using precaution? Who is opposing precaution?

  We often include attacks on the precautionary principle because we  
  believe it is essential for advocates of precaution to know what
  their adversaries are saying, just as abolitionists in 1830 needed
  to know the arguments used by slaveholders.

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