It's a tragedy of indescribable proportions that the trees in this sheltered, hidden place, that grew immense in spite of being rooted largely in solid rock, are dying off because they are absorbing pollution that originates far away.
Not only do they embrace the rocks they spring from, often their roots are exposed in the middle of the path, and have been trampled upon by countless feet...but still they were impervious - until recently.
The tree above is enveloping a rock beneath it.
All of the large trees still standing are losing chunks of bark from their trunks.
I won't comment on every picture because mostly the report referred to in the title to this post will be excerpted...but watch for all the corroded, cracking bark, it's universal.
When you see how trees can live even when the soil around their roots is eroded away, it gives the lie to excuses that they are dying from natural causes.
Trees are resilient and tenacious, they are adapted to withstand all sorts of extreme conditions because they are so long-lived. What they haven't been exposed to ever before, is ozone at its current level in the troposphere.
The park website says: "...freshwater Black River briskly cuts its way through rocky Hacklebarney State Park, cascading around boulders in the hemlock-lined ravine. Two tributaries, Rinehart and Trout Brooks, also course their way through this glacial valley, feeding the Black River. Even in the heat of midsummer, the temperature of Black River gorge is cool and refreshing."
That's no longer true, I'm afraid. The canopy of this forest, which was given as a memorial by a private citizen to the state of New Jersey in 1924, is so depleted that it won't be cool and refreshing as they describe - although it was once almost too cool, and very dark, as I remember. Nope, it's going to be bright, sunny and chokingly hot this summer.
Second, the white pines...report: "Heads They Win, Tails We Lose - How Corporations Corrupt Science at the Public's Expense".
Another radical transformation is the loss of the understory, which was once lush with native mountain laurel. It has been reduced to a transparent ghostly shadow of what it once was.
The reason the evergreen leaves are gone is quite obvious upon inspection of those still clinging to branches.
There should be mounds of solid green laurels such that you wouldn't even be able to discern the tree line in the horizon beyond.
Every place where there are a few skimpy tufts of leaves ought to be dense with glossy green.
No wonder I saw not a single animal of any sort the entire time I was there.
He was so confused as to why they are dying that he had sent samples to Rutgers for analysis, and it turns out to be a native fungus. This perplexed him even more, that a species which existed in harmony for who knows how many hundreds or even thousands of years with the birches has suddenly become lethal.
Of the standing trees remaining, there are virtually none that don't have symptoms of impending death. One is the previously noted corrosion and subsequent loss of bark.here).
certain pollutants, such as ozone, solely on science. The George W. Bush administration set an
ozone standard that was not supported by science, and President Obama pledged to revisit it. But as
the EPA was finalizing its work, top White House officials including the White House chief of staff
met with business groups including the Business Roundtable, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and
the American Chemistry Council that were opposed to a strengthened ozone standard. Subsequently, the president ordered the EPA to stop its review."
reported in September 2011: "Leaders of major business groups — including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Petroleum Institute and the Business Roundtable — met with Ms. Jackson and with top White House officials this summer seeking to moderate, delay or kill the rule. They told William M. Daley, the White House chief of staff, that the rule would be very costly to industry and would hurt Mr. Obama’s chances for a second term." Threaten much??]
interference in federal science: the inappropriate influence of companies with a financial stake in the
outcome. This influence affects not only the science used in decision making, but also public opinion and the decision-making process itself. By better understanding how corporations influence the use of science in federal decision making, we can both hold companies and policy makers accountable for their actions and ensure that the nation develops science based policies that serve the public interest."
Corporations that stand to lose from the results of independent scientific inquiry have gone to great lengths to manipulate and control science and scientists by:
Terminating and suppressing research.
Companies have controlled the dissemination of scientific information by ending or withholding results of research that they sponsor that would threaten their bottom line."
Corporations bury scientific information by harassing scientists and their institutions into silence. Scientists have been threatened with litigation and the loss of their jobs, have had their research defunded, have been refused promotion or tenure, and have been transferred to non-research positions, leading to self-censorship and changes in research direction."
Corporations have employed flawed methodologies in testing and research—such as by changing the questions scientists are asking—that are biased toward predetermined results."
Corporations corrupt the integrity of scientific journals by planting ghostwritten articles about their products. Rather than submitting articles directly, companies recruit scientists or contract with research organizations to publish articles that obscure the sponsors’ involvement."
Corporations selectively publish positive results while underreporting negative results. While not directly corrupting science itself, these publishing and reporting biases skew the body of evidence."
Officials who shuttle between high-level government positions and regulated industries or companies undermine the integrity of federal science and public confidence in government. While sharing expertise among different sectors can sometimes be beneficial, there is serious risk that the revolving door will allow individuals with clear financial conflicts of interest to hold key decision-making positions."
employer. The legacy of political appointees with conflicts of interest lives on even after their departure—through both the policies they helped develop and the erosion of public trust in agency integrity."
In 2003, more than a dozen senior scientists came to UCS with a troubling observation: on issues from childhood lead poisoning to air pollution, from climate change to contraception, scientists were being silenced, and science was being suppressed, rewritten, or misrepresented to support predetermined policy outcomes. UCS launched investigations and compiled case studies where politics had trumped science, and the scientists put together a statement that called on the Bush scientific integrity to federal policy making. The statement drew an enormous amount of attention
because it was signed by senior scientific advisors to both Republican and Democratic administrations dating back to President Eisenhower. Over time, nearly 15,000 scientists added their names."
"From 2005 to 2011, UCS conducted surveys and received responses from more than 5,100 scientists at nine federal agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration (UCS 2010e, 2006), the Environmental Protection Agency (UCS 2008), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (UCS 2005), and the Department of Agriculture (UCS 2010e). Among other troubling trends, the results revealed that hundreds of scientists across the agencies had personally experienced political interference in their work (UCS 2010e, 2009e)."
|This is the largest tree I saw. I should have grabbed someone to stand next to it for scale because it's huge.|
a comprehensive vision for reform that will ensure scientific integrity in federal decision making. This vision should include not only changes in the culture and operation of the federal government, but also reforms in the private and nongovernmental sectors that curb abuses of science."
Corporations fund a multibillion-dollar lobbying industry based in Washington. Corporate lobbyists have extensive influence on and private access to elected officials and their staff, opening the opportunity for corruption. Since 1998, lobbying has ballooned from a $1.44 billion industry to more than $3.51 billion in 2010 (Center for Responsive Politics 2011b)."
40 ppb threshold causes damage to vegetation??]
Abuse of Science" describes efforts to alter the baseline for monitoring ozone measurements:
In April 2004, air quality modelers from 9 of the 10 regional offices of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lodged an internal protest against a Bush administration policy that relaxes the way pollution can be measured over national parks and wilderness areas. The new policy allows states to choose which year to set as a baseline for measuring increases in air pollution. The result of a compromise with North Dakota officials, whose state had previously been out of compliance with the federal Clean Air Act, the new method may set a dangerous precedent for other states in allowing higher levels of air pollution."
"The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1977 deem national parks and wilderness areas of a certain size to be 'Class I' areas, and permit only small increases in air pollution over those areas. Since 1999, the EPA has maintained that air quality in North Dakota's Theodore Roosevelt National Park had increased since 1977, the baseline year, by an amount that violated these Class I standards."
"This lack of compliance proved to be a stumbling block for industry plans to build new coal-fired power plants near the park. Mary Mitchell of the Dakota Resource Council, detailed industry efforts to bypass the EPA regulations, stating 'We have evidence that after the original pollution reports were made in 1999, the industry and the state made 14 separate efforts to redo the reports with different 'modeling scenarios' to make it look like they were complying.'"
"However, with the new compromise policy, North Dakota can alter 'the criteria within its pollution modeling software that dictate what baseline years are used and how the pollution data is averaged,' effectively bringing the state into compliance without actually reducing air pollution."
"The changes were greeted with dismay by the very scientists charged with monitoring and analyzing air quality and prompted what one air quality advocate called 'an unprecedented rebellion.'"
"'I was aghast,' said an anonymous air quality modeler, quoted about the new policy in the Los Angeles Times. The Times reported that modelers were 'offended by what they termed the administration's efforts to use science to mask a policy change that would hurt air quality.'"
"In a memo sent to division directors Bill Harnett and Peter Tsirigotis, the air quality modelers warned against using procedures that would "artificially inflate" the baseline and thereby sanction increased future air pollution levels. They described the changes as violating 'long-standing [principles] in federal regulations and in EPA guidance and practice' which have 'served to protect and enhance air quality.'"
"The scientists were also motivated by concerns that the North Dakota case would provide a precedent for other regions to similarly redefine standards. Scott Bohning, an EPA environmental engineer in San Francisco and one of the regional EPA workers who helped draft the letter of protest, was quoted as saying 'I think it really sunk in with me and other people that this really could change national policy. This stuff should not really be going on.'"
"And indeed, an anonymous EPA official confirmed that the other states in the same region—Colorado, Montana, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming—are 'lining up' to follow North Dakota's lead. Bill Harnett responded to the scientists' memo claiming that 'it isn't about allowing more pollution. What it's about is doing the analysis in a manner consistent with our rules and with what Congress intended.'"
"However, the new rule changes do appear to allow more air pollution in North Dakota's national parks and new power plants to be built without requiring costly pollution controls. North Dakota had the three most polluting coal plants in the U.S., according to a 2006 ranking by the Environmental Integrity Project."
"One EPA modeler summarized objections to the new policy thusly: 'If you rearrange your science to fit your goal, that's not really science.'"
They also catalogue the jockeying to inhibit the EPA from tightening regulation of ozone, although curiously, the investigation stops with the Bush administration and doesn't go into nearly the same depth with what has occurred since in the Obama years, but it's interesting from an historical perspective and if you go to the link above it has many interesting footnotes. Here's their page about the previous administration, and unfortunately, not much has changed:
In 2008, the White House overruled the unanimous advice of its scientific advisors in order to weaken the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone—an air pollutant associated with respiratory ailments and premature death."
"Scientists at the EPA and the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee (CASAC) worked to review 1700 scientific articles regarding effects of ground-level ozone—a primary component of smog—on the health of humans and ecosystems. They recommended that EPA strengthen its air quality standards for this pollutant. Despite unanimous support from CASAC for stronger standards, the EPA Administrator and the White House finalized weaker protections inconsistent with the best available science."
Ozone (O3) is a gas found in Earth's upper atmosphere, where it protects us from the sun's damaging ultraviolet radiation. However, when it occurs at ground-level, ozone is dangerous for people and the environment. Ozone forms from chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds—both primarily from motor vehicle and industrial emissions—in the presence of sunlight."
"When people breathe air containing ground-level ozone, the pollutant can cause irritation and inflammation of the respiratory system, resulting in serious health effects, including wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and even premature death. Some plants and ecosystems are also damaged following exposure to ground-level ozone, which disrupts the process of photosynthesis and can damage leaves and reduce crop yields for fruits and vegetables."
"Regulating air pollutants
The Clean Air Act (CAA) mandates that the EPA set and periodically update the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for six air pollutants, including ozone. The CAA mandates that the standard be based upon the "latest scientific knowledge" and include a margin of safety to protect the public health. For each of the NAAQS-regulated pollutants, the EPA may set both primary and secondary limits, in order to protect human health and public welfare, respectively."
"Updating the 1997 ozone standards
In 2000, the EPA began the process of reviewing the 1997 NAAQS for ground-level ozone by collecting and analyzing air quality data and scientific assessments of health effects of ozone exposure. After years of work, the EPA Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards (OAQPS) released a 609-page document in 2007, referred to as the 'staff paper,' containing ozone limit recommendations and a review of their work by a congressionally mandated external panel of experts—the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee (CASAC). This staff paper represents the scientific assessment that is to be utilized by the EPA Administrator in his limit setting decision making processes—a requirement of the CAA."
"In the OAQPS staff paper, CASAC unanimously recommended tightening the primary ozone standard, from the 1997 limit of 80 parts per billion (ppb), to a level as strict as 60 ppb, and in no case higher than 70 ppb. To support that standard, the committee cited recent controlled clinical studies documenting 'statistically-significant decrements in lung function' at concentrations of 80 ppb, and "adverse lung function effects" in some individuals at 60 ppb."
|Imagine this tree grew for so long with its roots wrapped around a huge stone.|
"Historically, the EPA has set secondary NAAQS that are identical to the primary standards because of uncertainties in the benefits of a tighter secondary standard. However, following its review of recent scientific evidence, the agency also proposed a more stringent seasonal standard for ozone, to protect crops and other plant life during times of intense exposure. Dr. Rogene Henderson, the chair of CASAC, later testified that 'the panel was in unanimous agreement that we now have enough new information to be able to set a cumulative, seasonal secondary standard rather than to default to using the primary standard' and that the EPA staff and the Administrator shared this consensus."
"But Dr. Henderson went on to describe how this scientific consensus was trampled, stating 'In this case, policy makers wandered into scientific issues and they did not do it well.'"
"Political interference ensues
Despite CASAC's consensus on the science, industry groups and local governments actively lobbied both the White House and the EPA to maintain the 80 ppb primary standard."
"The Clean Air Act forbids the EPA from considering the economic costs when setting NAAQS standards. However, the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA, part of the Office of Management and Budget) does require the EPA to submit a regulatory impact assessment (RIA) whenever it proposes major regulations. The RIA is an attempt to estimate the economic costs and benefits of a regulation."
here). In the case of the NAAQS, the scientific evidence on human health is supposed to trump the economic findings of the RIA, but this interference foreshadowed the battle over the primary and secondary standards."
"News reports and Congressional investigations revealed evidence that in March 2008 OIRA forced the EPA to weaken its proposed secondary ozone standard. The evidence suggests that EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson and his staff attempted to push back against these changes but were overruled. The EPA also released a primary ozone standard that was weaker than CASAC's recommended range."
"A March 6, 2008 memorandum from OIRA Administrator Susan Dudley to Administrator Johnson questioned the EPA's scientific basis for the proposed secondary standard, and called on the agency to consider 'economic values, personal comfort and well-being.' The following day, EPA Deputy Administrator Marcus Peacock replied that the EPA was barred by law from considering economic costs of implementing standards, and that the EPA was unaware of 'any information indicating beneficial effects of ozone on public welfare.' OIRA followed up on March 8th with a phone call to EPA, again indicating that they "did not concur" on the secondary standard."
"Confidential talking points prepared for Administrator Johnson's March 11 meeting with President Bush also emphasized the strong scientific support for the EPA's proposal of a more stringent secondary ozone standard."
"The dispute was settled by a last minute intervention by President Bush on the evening of March 11, 2008, the day before the final rule was to be issued. The EPA was instructed to make the ozone secondary limit equal to the primary, which triggered an "emergency rewrite" of the final rule. The final rule was issued March 12, 2008, with EPA's justifications of the stricter secondary standard deleted from the document."
"That same day Administrator Johnson further overruled CASAC to set the primary NAAQS for ozone at 75 ppb—a level unsupported by the best available science. Johnson's decision to ignore CASAC's advice mirrored his 2006 decision not to tighten the NAAQS for fine particulate matter, also against the recommendations of his science advisers (read more about the EPA's particulate matter decision here)."
"The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee—chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA)—opened an investigation into the ozone NAAQS process and invited Johnson, Dudley and Henderson to testify. In his testimony and in response to repeated questioning, Johnson asserted, despite evidence to the contrary, that the White House did not pressure him and that all of EPA's ozone decisions were his and his alone."
"Rep. Waxman summarized his committee's investigation by stating, 'Our investigation has not been able to find any evidence that the President based his decisions on the science, the record, or the law. Indeed, there's virtually no credible record of any kind in support of the decisions.' An EPA official, voicing the frustrations of many EPA staff members, stated, 'I have been working on NAAQS reviews for over 30 years and have yet to see anything like this.'"
"Update: On January 6, 2010 the EPA issued a proposed rule that would set ozone standards at a level consistent with the advice of CASAC and the EPA's staff scientists. The EPA proposed to set the primary ozone standard to a value in the range of 0.060 to 0.070 ppm and the secondary ozone standard to a value in the range of 7-15 ppm-hours."
|There's no telling how long this bench has been suspended between the two trees.|
|The trunks have grown around and completely absorbed the chains that hold up the board.|
Someone has carved a heart into the seat.
"I ask this committee to allow EPA to move forward in announcing standards that are protective of public and environmental health and not impede progress by conducting a third draft Integrated Science Assessment. This committee has previously recommended – unanimously – decreasing the primary standard to within the range of 0.060 to 0.070ppm. As this committee wrote to the previous Administration, setting the primary standard above this range 'fails to satisfy the explicit stipulations of the Clean Air Act that you ensure an adequate margin of safety for all individuals, including sensitive populations.' (CASAC letter April 7, 2008)"
|There must be something romantic about the park, because even the trees embrace each other!|
"We know that ozone pollution is a very real health hazard that threatens American prosperity and livelihood. This committee and the current Administration have clearly stated an understanding that the current standard is not protective of public health, and so it is time to end the cycle of delay and move forward with this process. A third draft of the Integrated Science Assessment is not needed."
"Americans deserve clean air and they deserve to know what level of ozone pollution is dangerous to our children and families. So that we can protect ourselves and our communities, we need this committee to move forward. Additionally, industry leaders and utilities need certainty so that they can adequately plan for the future."
"I would like to thank the committee for their good work to date in providing the best scientific review possible on our national ozone standard. Again, we strongly urge you to move forward quickly. More delay at this stage, when the science is so clear, only sets the stage for more delays in the future. When it comes to clean air and public health, Americans deserve better than a pattern of continuous delay and inaction. "
In a letter to EPA the Science Advisory Board recommended a number of revisions, some of which would undoubtedly be improvements, particularly addressing "...the lack of clear, unambiguous statements regarding the impact of ozone on root growth; and the lack of emphasis on ambient ozone effects on native vegetation. Further, the effect of ozone on water loss by plants (specifically, the potential for a decrease as well as potential increase in water loss due to sluggish stomata) should be incorporated into the discussion and overarching figures."
Also in the comments from Mr. George Allen, this is certainly important: "More discussion of the western oil/gas field winter ozone scenario may be helpful in two ways. We now have 2 known areas with high winter ozone: the WY Green River Basin as noted, and the Uinta Valley (including Ouray) in UT (little to nothing is in the literature yet for this location). Understanding the
relatively few and easily characterized precursor sources may add to our knowledge of many aspects of ozone formation, especially the roles of temperature and moisture. These locations may be studies of opportunity. Similar areas likely exist that do not currently have any monitoring. This may be worth noting in section 3.5, monitoring networks. Another area of new concern is the massive increase in fracking activities in many parts of the country; fugitive emissions and emissions from on and off-road HDD engines are a potentially new and large source of ozone precursors."
But you know what? The scientists can, and will, conduct research till the cows come home but meanwhile, the trees are dying, ...and this summer it's going to be so hot, the ozone is going to spike and people are going to die from it. This will be reported in the media as "heat-related deaths" when in fact, it's air pollution. Oh well. See those circles? On the left, they look to be concave, and on the right, convex. Yet, it is the exact same photograph. It's in our genes to perceive light as coming from above, so "the shadow knows". Ha, ha! The point is, we are not going to ever escape our predisposition as top predators to consume and pollute until we self-destruct. Ecopocalypse has always been our fate, we are helpless to alter this destiny. We could slow it down though.
So, it's okay to fight it. Do not go quietly into that good night!!
Here's a video of a stubborn citizen scientist, taking on the big corporations.