Journal of Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI). Asbestos Free India campaign of BANI is inspired by trade union leader Purnendu Majumadar. It has been working for last 17 years. It works with peoples movements, doctors, researchers and activists besides trade unions, human rights, environmental, consumer and public health groups. BANI demands criminal liability for companies and medico-legal remedy for victims. For Details: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
WASHINGTON: The Dow Chemical Co. spent $2.7 million in the second quarter to lobby Congress and several federal agencies on issues ranging from energy efficiency to defense, according to a recent disclosure report.
The chemical manufacturer's total lobbying cost compares with the $1.2 million it spent in the second quarter of 2009 and $2 million it spent in the first quarter.
From April to June, Dow Chemical discussed pending legislation and issues on a number of fronts, including security of chemical facilities and energy efficiency. It also lobbied on green chemistry, asbestos legislation, derivatives, health reform, taxes, trade and in support of ballistics shield material and solar materials under defense appropriations measures.
In addition to Congress, Dow Chemical lobbied a number of agencies, including the Commerce Department, the U.S. Trade Representative, the Environmental Protection Agency and the White House, according to the report filed July 20 with the House clerk's office.
2010-08-30 21:30:48 (GMT) (WiredPRNews.com - Health & Fitness, Law, Mesothelioma Asbestos, Press Releases)
In 2009, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Betty McCollum (MN-4) introduced to Congress a proposal to make September 26 “National Mesothelioma Awareness Day”.
The resolution was an attempt to acquaint a wider spectrum of United States’ citizens to the specter of mesothelioma, a fairly rare cancer that attacks the mesothelial linings that surround and protect the lungs, heart and abdominal organs.
Occurring as pleural mesothelioma (in the lungs) in 75 percent of cases, the cancer lies dormant for as long as 50 years before becoming highly aggressive and invasive, affecting so much vital tissue and vital organs that most patients diagnosed with the disease die within about a year.
Mesothelioma reportedly claims about 2,500 people in the U.S. each year. This is not a huge number, but the fact is the disease could be eradicated in a lifetime if the U.S. would join the 52 other nations around the globe that have successfully banned asbestos, the only known cause of mesothelioma.
Unfortunately, the U.S. is like Canada, China, India, Japan, Russia, and 200 other countries around the globe which are either taking asbestos from the earth, to the tune of 2 millions tons in 2009, or selling it, generating an estimated $1.25 billion dollars in profits as a result. It’s hard to resist the term “blood asbestos”, though most of the deaths occur at the back end of the mining and production cycle.
In spite of this regional (and global) catastrophe, the U.S. – like Britain, Russia and China – has ignored the need to fund research to find a cure. Though even this may soon change, as volunteers of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation rally this September to raise awareness of the disease’s costs, both in human and financial terms.
The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, once known as MARF and now called simply the Meso Foundation, is a non-profit organization devoted to educating the public, supporting mesothelioma victims and their families, finding funding to spur further research into a cure, and advocating for a national mandate to end the mesothelioma debacle by banning asbestos.
It was reported, according to Chris Hahn, Executive Director of the Meso Foundation, it is only through the activities of these dedicated volunteers that mesothelioma will finally become “part of a broad national conversation” about this appalling form of cancer and its intolerable impact on the country.
As Representative (former Senator) Murray once pointed out, the disease went unrecognized and unremarked for so long, even by the health sector, that today’s legacy costs are remarkable only for their extent.
National Mesothelioma Awareness Day, which began life as H. 771, remains a milestone in the effort to reverse that legacy. Unfortunately, the bill itself languishes in the House’s Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, a 41-member committee chaired by Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY10).
In the public sector, Meso Foundation champions like runner Larry Davis have been active and highly visible in their efforts to achieve the same goals. Davis, a survivor of asbestos-induced cancer, is one of a group of concerned individuals who are pushing for a national mesothelioma day.
It hasn’t happened yet, but in March of 2009, the Florida House of Representatives approved HR 9041 (SR 2714) designating Sept. 26, 2010 – and the same date thereafter – as Mesothelioma Awareness Day in Florida.
This year, on Sept. 26, the Meso Foundation will be in New York City for the taping of the Today Show, another step forward in getting national recognition for this devastating disease. In addition, nationally-recognized EHE International (a leader in preventive health programs and plans) has donated the 10 Rockefeller Plaza display window for the Meso Foundation to use from Sept. 1 through the 30 – a high-profile location that will likely boost the cause enormously.
For Davis, whose father died at the age of 56 from mesothelioma acquired at a box manufacturing plant in New Haven, Connecticut, the occasion is one highlight of his year, the first being the revival of the 2009 Boca Raton (Fla.) Miles for Meso run which occurred on Feb. 13 at Spanish River Park this year.
On Labor Day, Sept. 6, Davis and his wife, Carol, plan to run in the USA 20K Championship in New Haven, Conn. – again to highlight the cause of mesothelioma. On the weekend of Sept. 26, Davis will run a meso benefit in Illinois. According to Davis, the Illinois run organizer told him that the hills across which the run was scheduled were “killers”.
To which Davis replied: “I’d rather go that way (than die from mesothelioma).”
Mesothelioma is the form of cancer that claimed rock-and-roll singer/songwriter Warren Zevon, 1960s Hollywood actor Steve McQueen (The Great Escape) and NFL Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen, who went on after his football career to act in several television series, including Little House On the Prairie, Aaron’s Way, and Father Murphy, among others.
US EPA May Ban Asbestos Completely Under Safe Chemicals Act
August 27, 2010 — In 1976, the Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA was enacted to insure that chemicals remained safe throughout their lifetime, from the factory floor to disposal in a designated landfill. By “safe”, the TSCA assumed that risks to workers and the public would be minimized at every phase and wherever possible.
It was good legislation, and a good plan, but weaknesses and uncertainties in the law have left the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which administers the TSCA, unable to act even when chemicals blatantly endanger the health of American workers and other citizens.
In fact, in the 34 years since environmental and health legislation has emerged at the forefront of national policy, all the various Acts (Clean Air, Clean Water) have evolved to match the nation’s changing understanding about what is, and is not, a threat to human health and the environment. This includes those involved in policy-making and those examining issues from a scientific point of view.
Only the TSCA remains unchanged, much to the EPA’s chagrin. But that may soon change. On April 15, New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg introduced the Safe Chemicals Act, aimed at overhauling the TSCA and giving the EPA broader latitude to determine a chemical’s safety by requesting more information, while placing the onus on chemical manufacturers to submit minimum data sets (MSDS, or Material Safety Data Sheets) for the chemicals they make.
The Act, S3209, also prioritizes chemicals based on their known health hazards; mandates the EPA to focus most on those known or suspected to cause the most harm; ensures minimum safety thresholds for all chemicals; places the burden of proof on manufacturers; mandates identification of all uses, and their safety; creates an open record on reliable chemical information; promotes “greener” chemistry to replace older, more toxic chemicals; fast tracks approval of those safer chemicals; and requires the EPA to take action first on those chemicals or substances that have already been proven dangerous.
The Act, which “fast tracks” higher risk substances, has been read twice and is currently sitting before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. A similar bill, H.R. 5820, was introduced by Rep. Bobby Rush (D – IL) on July 22, and has been sent to the House’s Energy and Commerce Subcommittee (Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection).
Recent newspaper reports from around the U.S. suggest that the first act under S3209, if passed, will be to ban all those uses of asbestos which remain permitted in U.S. commerce. These include: asbestos-cement products, corrugated and flat sheet asbestos products, asbestos clothing, asbestos pipe wrap, roofing felt, vinyl-asbestos floor tile, asbestos-cement shingles, millboard (a fire-retardant wall and ceiling sheathing), asbestos-cement water pipe, some automatic transmission parts, automobile clutch facings, disc brake pads, drum brake linings, brake blocks, gaskets, non-friction valve, pump and brake packings, and non-roof-and roof-related fireproof coatings.
In 1989, the EPA, fully recognizing asbestos’ dangers after a decade of research and 100,000 pages of documentation, tried to ban the use of all asbestos in domestic manufacture in the hopes that cessation would end the legacy of mesothelioma hanging over the country. Asbestos is currently the only known cause of the disease.
Mesothelioma, a rare but devastating cancer of the mesothelial tissues that line and protect the lungs, heart and abdominal organs, explodes – after up to 50 years of dormancy – into a particularly aggressive cancer that usually kills within one year of diagnosis.
In 1991, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, Louisiana, overturned the ban, even while acknowledging the fact that asbestos is a “potential carcinogen”. This means that, even today, in the 21st century, 10,000 people die in the U.S. every year from asbestos diseases, and 25 percent of them die from mesothelioma.
Worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, or WHO, asbestos causes about 90,000 deaths each year. It costs governments and business about $70 billion. Though 52 countries have successfully banned asbestos, another 200 – including Canada, China, India, Japan, Russia, and the U.S. – are either mining asbestos, buying it raw for remanufacture, or buying product containing asbestos. These 2 million tons of commerce (2009 figures) have netted sellers an estimated $1.25 billion dollars.
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Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)
International lobbyists promoting asbestos use in developing countries for decades
Aug 30, 2010
The dangers of asbestos are now well documented. Most people in the developed world assume that use of the cancer-causing fiber is banned, but that is not true. A recent report by a group of British investigative journalists documents found shocking levels of asbestos still in use throughout the developing world. Two million tons of asbestos was mined in 2009, and half of it was delivered to countries like Mexico and India. Of course, asbestos use has not been banned even in the United States.
Experts agree that any exposure to asbestos is dangerous, but industry and trade organizations that depend on the income from asbestos mining and sale spend millions to convince builders in developing countries that some types of asbestos are safe. Such a long period of time passes between exposure to asbestos and resulting diseases such as mesothelioma that it might be 40 years or more before the full impact of this deadly deal becomes apparent, particularly in Canada and Russia where it is mined and in countries including India and China where it is used. Asbestos disease, unfortunately, is not a thing of the past.
For the full story, go to Huffington Post.
Quebec Asbestos Mine Gets Government Backing
Quebec government will guarantee a $3.5-million line of credit for the Jeffrey asbestos mine in Asbestos, Quebec. Now the mine will be able to pump out more asbestos for the next month while it hunts for asbestos investors. The Jeffrey mine is looking for a cash injection of $58 million for a new underground mine at the site.
Ironically, The Canadian government recently announced it will spend C$600,000 on two studies at mining sites in the city of Thetford Mines in Quebec, to look at potential waste management strategies. Thetford was one of the world’s biggest asbestos-producing regions, until asbestos dust was linked with cancer and lung disease. Natural Resources Canada said the study “will help determine if post-mining activities can be conducted on the site to minimize waste and transform it into environmentally friendly resources for other uses.” The project falls under the federal government’s new C$8-million green mining initiative, which aims to improve the mining sector’s environmental performance and create green technology opportunities.
Who are they kidding? Does the Canadian government think we are naïve enough to believe that anything green and “environmentally friendly” can stem from asbestos?
In August, mine owner Bernard Coulombe told The Sherbrooke Record that the Jeffrey asbestos mine faces permanent shutdown if financing by the Quebec government is not granted. According to the Record, Coulombe told Economic development minister Clement Gignac that all he needed was a loan guarantee of $58 million.
Gignac agreed in principle to that guarantee, but said the mine needs another financial partner to pay an extra $15 million to the project that was not part of the loan. “The government hired industry auditor KPMG to do an audit of our operation and they stipulated that to complete work on the underground shaft would require special contractors, instead of allowing us to do the work ourselves,” he said.
Coulombe said two potential investors, one from London and another from India, will be visiting the premises next month. China already backed out.
Poor Coulombe. He says he cannot find other partners because of the negative publicity his fiber has been getting by anti-asbestos critics who want to shut down the industry in Quebec permanently. He argues that the Chrysotile-type fiber is not dangerous if handled properly.
“When you get people like (federal Liberal party leader Michael) Ignatieff saying Canada should ban all exports of chrysotile, then investors get scared that their money will be lost if the Liberals come to power,” Coulombe said.“It is difficult for me to convince them otherwise.”
Asbestos mining resumes for now
Jeffrey mine Agency provides $3.5-million loan
The nearly exhausted Jeffrey Mine in the town of Asbestos will resume operations for the month of September in a last-ditch bid to woo foreign investors to a proposed new underground mine at the site.
Thanks to a $3.5 million line of credit guaranteed by Investissement Quebec, the Quebec government's investment arm, the insolvent Jeffrey Mine will be able to temporarily resume operations at its existing open pit mine.
The company is under bankruptcy protection, and owner Bernard Coulombe said this summer he would have to close the mine on July 1 if Quebec did not guarantee a $58 million loan required to develop the underground mine.
But a credit line from the Banque nationale will allow the company to pay its 250 workers for the next month and to supply asbestos to some of its clients. Most importantly, the temporary reopening gives the company a better shot at convincing visiting investors that Canada's controversial asbestos industry has a future.
"The reason we are guarantying this line of credit is essentially that the company wants to show its clients they can have confidence in its ability to provide a quality product and to pay its employees," said Josee Beland, a spokesperson for Investissement Quebec.
"But the company is also looking for investors (in the expansion project), and they want to be able to show visitors an operating mine," she added.
The company will have to repay the $3.5 million by Dec. 31, she said, or Investissement Quebec will be responsible for repaying the bank.
Beland said the recent barrage of letters from medical and scientific organizations around the world condemning Quebec's continued support of the asbestos industry did not cause Investissement Quebec to hesitate in its decision to provide the funding guarantee.
"We are a financial institution and the company has requested help to temporarily recall its employees and to supply its clients with their product, but it is up to the government to decide if it will pursue investment in this company and its product in the long term," Beland said.
Investissement Quebec is run by a board of directors, but is under the jurisdiction of Economic Development Minister Clement Gignac. A spokesperson for Gignac said the minister had no comment on the issue yesterday.
Mine owner Bernard Coulombe was not available for comment yesterday, but he told a local newspaper recently that two potential investors, one from London and another from India, will be visiting the premises next month. He also said he now hopes to have an answer from Gignac's office regarding the loan guarantee by the end of this year.
The demand for asbestos is high, especially in developing countries where the relatively cheap, heat-resistant fibre is used to reinforce cement for construction. But the worldwide movement to ban asbestos use has been steadily gaining ground, and frightening away potential investors in the Jeffrey project.
The World Health Organization, the Canadian Medical Association and the Association medicale du Quebec, among others, have taken official stands against the continued use of chrysotile asbestos because the fibres cause deadly diseases when inhaled. Quebec exports most of its asbestos to developing countries where its handling is poorly regulated.
By MICHELLE LALONDE, The Gazette August 28, 2010
The Montreal Gazette
Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/business/Asbestos+mining+resumes/3453561/story.html#ixzz0yGwSmTlv
Across sectors, there is talk of capacity expansion, formation of joint ventures or spinning off businesses into subidiaries where a partner can be brought in. Take Vascon Engineers, an engineering procurement and construction (EPC) company and real estate developer, which picked up a 90% stake for Rs 62.6 crore in Mumbai-based GMP Technical Solutions, a manufacturer of clean room and office partitions. Vascon’s investment is expected to add Rs 150 crore to its topline and Rs 30 crore to its bottomline this fiscal, said managing director R Vasudevan.
UB Engineering, the electrical and mechanical construction, procurement and construction company in Vijay Mallya’s UB Group, which marked its foray into the infrastructure sector by establishing a subsidiary—UB Infrastructure — is in the midst of setting up a fabrication unit in Boral, Chhattisgarh. Its initial plans for the fabrication unit were for a Rs 20-crore unit with the capacity to fabricate 12,000 tonnes annually. Now, however, it is weighing the options of doubling the capacity, hence investment will also rise.
Indications are that the wholly-owned subsidiary, UB Infrastructure, could bring in an overseas partner that could also pick up a stake. That partner would bring in technical expertise and equity. Meanwhile, telecom and power cables maker (including optical fibre cables) Finolex Cables will invest Rs 60 crore in capacity expansion, this fiscal, besides scouting for a third manufacturing unit.
Capex this fiscal will include doubling cable-making capacities at its Urse (near Pune) plant, having already doubled capacities at its Roorkee plant, in Uttrarakhand. The cable and compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) maker is expected to increase capex for the next fiscal to around Rs 100 crore although company chairman, PP Chhabria said the board is yet to finalise investments for the next financial year.
Given the rising demand from the power and telecom sectors, Finolex Cables will set up a third cable-making plant which will not be in a tax haven, said Mr Chhabria. Indications are that this greenfield plant will be located in Gujarat, to cater to the demand from northern markets.
The Roorkee plant caters to demand from the east while the Urse plant handles the western and southern Indian markets. “We will also expand in Roorkee,” said Mr Chhabria, adding that they expect to maintain year-on-year growth at 30%. “We expect that the Roorkee plant will add Rs 100 crore annually while we expect a 30% year-on-year growth for the company. So, this year, we should be able to achieve a topline of Rs 2,200 crore,” said Mr Chhabria. In 2009-10, Finolex Cables had a turnover of Rs 1,726.6 crore compared with Rs 1,501.54 crore a year ago.
Building materials company, Sahyadri Industries, targets growth based on the infrastructure plans that the government has outlined. It is also targeting low-cost housing in rural areas, setting up two new plants. The first of these, a Rs 28-crore greenfield plant near Surat in Gujarat, will be operational before December while the other plant, near Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh, is awaiting environmental clearance.
These plants will manufacture cellulose fibre flat sheets which have replaced asbestos sheets in the building industry. “We have two plants in the Pune region from where we serve the western and southern markets. We now want to grow all-India hence a plant in Gujarat. The Vijayawada plant will make it easier to access the Tamil Nadu market,” said Jayesh Patel, executive director, Sahyadri Industries.
Commercial director, SIL, Satyen Patel, added that they will also launch a new product in flush doors, which will be manufactured at their existing plant at Kedgaon, near Pune.
On 27 August, the Supreme Court directed an NGO, which had filed a PIL in 2004 seeking a complete ban on use of asbestos in the country, to respond to the allegation against it of having links with an overseas steel company.
A bench comprising Chief Justice S H Kapadia and Justice Swatanter Kumar asked the NGO Kalyaneshwari to file an affidavit in this regard.
Earlier, on August 13, the Supreme Court had asked the government to examine the allegations against a Kolkata-based NGO having connection with a private overseas steel company.
During the hearing, advocte Krishna Mani, appearing for the NGO, submitted that the government may take action against it but the issue of use of asbestos in the country is very genuine and should be heard by the court.
"What action may be taken against the NGO should be taken, it should be taken but the issue is genuine and it should be heard by the court," he said.
The NGO has come under the scanner of the apex court after it was told that the Gujarat High Court had passed an adverse remark against it by saying that the NGO was not a genuine litigant working in public interest.
"We would like to know from the Centre whether the petitioner NGO is in the list of the NGOs maintained by it and being funded by it," the court had said.
It had also asked Additional Solicitor General Haren Raval to look into the issue and issued a notice to the NGO saying that "it will examine the case in detail".
The court asked the government to examine the allegations against a Kolkata-based NGO having connection with a private overseas company. The NGO which filed a PIL in 2004 seeking a complete ban on use of asbestos in the country, has come under the scanner of the apex court after it was told that the Gujarat High Court had passed an adverse remark against it by saying that the NGO was not a genuine litigant working in public interest.
"We would like to know from the Centre whether the petitioner NGO is in the list of the NGOs maintained by it and being funded by it," a Bench comprising Chief Justice S H Kapadia and Justice K S Radhakrishnan said.
It asked Additional Solicitor General Haren Raval to look into the issue and issued a notice to the NGO saying that "it will examine the case in detail".
The Bench made it clear that for the time being it was not arriving at any decision and would like to hear the NGO. When the matter was called for hearing, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves informed the bench about the Gujarat High Court order which had on December 9, 2004 made observations indicating that the NGO had some connection with a company.
The Bench expressed concern and asked "how can we control this type of situation"?
"Is it funded by the government? Why it should be declared black listed?" the Bench said asking the Additional Solicitor General to find out whether the NGO was being funded by the government or not.
After pointing out the issue, Gonsalves and other advocates, appearing for the NGO, sought permission of the court to withdraw from the matter, which was allowed.
Business in carcinogenic asbestos must be restricted or outlawed
While economic liberalisation has bestowed immense gains on the country by way of the information technology and mobile revolutions, upgraded highways and townships and superior medical facilities, loosening curbs on trade in hazardous material and waste and mining has proved detrimental for the environment and health. As the dispute over unregulated mining in tribal belts and fragile eco-zones persists, civil activists and human rights groups have intensified resistance to the use of asbestos despite the technical ban, imposed in the mid-1990s, on mining of chrysotile asbestos. Now, it is primarily imports from Canada and elsewhere that sustains the estimated Rs 4,000-crore industry in India.
The pro-asbestos business lobby is reported to be pressurising policy-makers to lift the ‘technical ban’, which denies renewal of mining leases. This material is universally known to be a health hazard, with a special propensity to cause cancer. However, when the bottomline is profit, health and human rights concerns become peripheral. At a meeting convened by the Ministry of Mines four months ago, mine owners from Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh are said to have tried hard for reversal of the prohibition. Sources reveal that such mining goes on even now in Rajasthan in a limited way. Jharkhand’s mines apparently are exhausted. Though it has a plethora of uses, asbestos is deployed mainly in low-cost housing; vehicles (brake lining and brake shoes); to make water supply pipes; in fire-proofing; and sound-proofing. Canada, Russia, Kazakhstan, Brazil, China and some other countries are the main producers of the material.
Opponents of the proposal ascribe the Rajasthan Government’s turnabout on the issue, revoking the earlier demand to lift the ban on mining, to a conflict of interests, related to white asbestos importers. The use and mining of brown and blue asbestos is completely banned in India. The prevailing ambivalence among policy-makers is indicated by a recommendation of the Indian Bureau of Mines that the ban be lifted as health hazards could be dealt with. British toxicologist John Hoskins reportedly dismisses the risk entailed by asbestos use as “unimportant”, compared to “risks on road, the risks of food poisoning — risks in developing countries, particularly of dirty water and poor sewage facilities”.
This line of reasoning is forcefully rebutted by human rights activists such as Mr Gopal Krishna of Ban Asbestos Network of India and Toxic Watch Alliance. A missive sent on behalf of BANI, dated June 19, to the Quebec Government Office in Mumbai, Consulate General of Canada, protests against the Quebec Government’s move to give a huge subsidy to the asbestos mining industry in Canada, with health consequences for developing countries like India. Significantly, to quote from the letter, “Canada exports the cancer causing fibre to India but prefers not to use it domestically… in 2007, Canada exported almost 95 per cent of the white asbestos it mined, and out of it, 43 per cent was shipped to India”.
Economic liberalisation’s dark side is thus evident, with India and its ilk becoming dumping grounds for hazardous products and even lethal waste from developed countries. Pliant policy-makers and a weak regulatory framework are easily manipulated by business conglomerates and powerful nations. An excerpt from the letter makes this point:
“The chrysotile asbestos (white asbestos) industry is acting as merchants of death even as workers and consumers are routinely being exposed to deadly asbestos fibres. Notably, worker protections and enviro-occupational health infrastructure are weak or non-existent in India… The Indian Parliament and Canadian House of Commons must act to stop the Governments from protecting the companies that knowingly commit corporate crimes…”
BANI recommends the use of safer fibres in the place of asbestos, whose health risks are acknowledged by a resolution of the International Labour Organisation. Adopted by the 95th session of the International Labour Conference in June 2006, it states: “… all forms of asbestos, including chrysotile, are classified as known human carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a classification restated by the International Programme on Chemical Safety (a joint Programme of the International Labour Organisation, the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Environment Programme).”
Sadly, the Hazardous Waste (Management, Handling and Trans-boundary Movement) Rules, 2008 contains a proviso that facilitates movement of “asbestos containing residue”, which, as hazardous waste, “may be transported, treated and disposed of”, as per the rules. Yet, under these rules, import or export of waste asbestos is banned. Available data indicates that India was the third largest market for this fibre in 2008. As demand for asbestos grows, opponents fear the outcome in terms of its impact both on people and nature.
August 27, 2010
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