Following Up and Following Down: October 2018 Edition

Stump grinding, Boise style

Stump grinding, Boise style

Long time readers of Wickersham’s Conscience know that at irregular intervals WC tries to follow-up on topics discussed earlier. It’s not systematic and it’s certainly not due diligence, But readers may be interested in what has happened since on some subjects, so here’s an effort. Nor is it stump grinding, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

For years now, WC has argued for the incredible short-sightedness of Alaska basing its economy on emission of still more greenhouse gases. In 2016, a study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences estimated that anthropogenic climate change impacts to public infrastructure in Alaska will total about $5 billion by century’s end. That’s $67.5 million a year. WC bets out kids and grandkids will be really happy about that. Increased oceanside erosion in Point Hope? $17 million to move the runway, which may get the State 30 more years. Slow-motion mudslides from melting permafrost? $2 million to move the Dalton Highway, which may buy the State 20 years. WC would call these recent expenses just the tip of the iceberg, but the iceberg has already melted.

A couple of months ago WC wrote about the huge tsunami in Lituya Bay in July 1958. Scientists have documents another big landslide-generated tsunami, this one in Icy Bay, just up the Gulf of Alaska coast from Lituya Bay. The Icy Bay event was in October 2015 in Taan Fiord. Unlike the 1958 event in Lituya Bay, there was no earthquake to trigger the landslide. Instead, it was retreat and thinning of Tyndall Glacier that apparently caused the landslide. Without the support of the glacial ice, the hillside collapsed. The slide was bigger – 200 million tons to Lituya Bay’s 90 million tons – but the topography made the waves smaller, a “mere” 600 feet high. It’s long odds this was another consequence of climate change.

You will recall that the EPA, under Scott Pruitt, kept chlorpyrifos on the market despite its high risks to children. The Ninth Circuit slapped the EPA down.

[O]ver the past decade and more, the EPA has stalled on banning chlorpyrifos, first by largely ignoring a petition properly filed pursuant to law seeking such a ban, then by temporizing in response to repeated orders by this Court to respond to the petition, and, finally, in its latest tactic, by denying outright our jurisdiction to review the ultimate denial of the petition, even while offering no defense on the merits. If Congress’s statutory mandates are to mean anything, the time has come to put a stop to this patent evasion.

The Ninth Circuit gave the EPA 60 days to get it off the market.

Reagan Martz, the guy that killed one person and injured two while boating drunk at Nancy Lake, was supposed to go to trial this month for one count of manslaughter and three counts of first degree assault. The trial, on his attorney’s request, has been pushed back to mid-November. It’s unlikely this case will actually go to trial. It may be that Martz thinks he has nothing to lose. He’s wrong.

Barney Gottstein died. Barney gave us Mike Gravel, in a lot of ways, but regretted it later and supported Clark Gruening in his successful primary run against Gravel. WC had a nice conversation with Barney in the basement of his home. Maybe 1969 or 1970? WC was playing pool with his son Jimmy and Russ Meekins. Barney joined us for a while. We didn’t talk about anything important, but he went out of his way to make a Fairbanksan feel comfortable. We had a mutual acquaintance: the late Jay Rabinowitz.

WC wrote about the execution of the death warrant on the elderly tree across the street from his home. When the execution was completed, there was nothing left but a stump. Now there’s not even a stump. The photo at the top of the page shows the stump in the final stages of being ground to dirty wood chips. Sic transit flora. In November, new trees will be planted.