opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development
Revolt news 177
1. From Defra magazine Energy & Environmental Management Nov/Dec 04:
(a) The Green Alliance www.greenalliance.org.uk is promoting the case for micro-generation on a domestic scale, "as easy to plug-and-play as a hi-fi". New micro wind turbines, no bigger than a satellite dish, can be mounted on the roof, link to the grid via a two-way gate and meter, and cost as little as £990. Ground source heat pumps, costing the same as an oil-fired boiler, extract heat from the ground with an energy ratio of 1 unit in for 3 or 4 extracted. "Micro CHP boilers, mini-wind turbines and PV arrays should become familiar household features", GA says.
(b) The new DTI Energy Minister Mike O'Brien has said "in future, energy generation will often be small-scale and local". Revolt has promoted this message for over ten years. Can government at last be getting the message?
2. The National Trust for Scotland is objecting to the plans for pylons across the Highlands - the Ullapool - Beauly - Denny line (or variations to it). APPENDIX 1 is an article from the Sunday Herald.
3. One alternative to the Ullapool - Beauly - Denny line is an undersea cable from the Hebrides to come ashore on the northern Scottish coast to connect to powerlines leading from the Dounreay nuclear power plant. Highland Council prefers this alternative (see APPENDIX 2), which would avoid a new line through the western Highlands but would require upgrading existing lines from Dounreay and possibly other reinforcements running as far south as Denny (between Glasgow and Edinburgh).
4. There is an interesting case at the moment in Greater Manchester involving a pylon said to have been moved some 20 metres from the permitted position to suit Sale Golf Club to the detriment of a neighbour. It raises issues for landowners with power lines bordering their land, as well as for cases where pylons have been moved without due process. APPENDIX 6 gives details and messages for landowners.
5. An interesting article from www.sepp.org is at APPENDIX 3. This science oriented news & comment service has Priority Issues: Climate change, Control of greenhouse gases, Energy policy, Future energy sources, Nuclear radiation effects, Nuclear terrorism threats. The selected article is on "hormesis", which means small doses of toxins (chemicals or radiation) possibly having a beneficial effect in some cases (not the ultra-dilution claims of homeopathy, but more like vaccination effects). The theory challenges the key role of dose- response relations in medicine. As I see it, this is not to negate the important work of Alice Stewart who showed the dangers of low-dose atomic radiation and X-rays, but to challenge the orthodoxy of dose- response assumptions.
6. Chancellor Gordon Brown in his pre-budget statement mentions the sustainable growth the UK has enjoyed (or achieved). Fair enough, on the short political horizon, but longer term the world may be on an unsustainable path. There is strong global growth of population, of per- capita consumption, of waste, and of natural resource depletion. On the present course, "when the oil runs out", a global crisis is looming (perhaps already starting), with potential global economic collapse in the middle of this century. That (potential) should be plain for all to see, although we may not like to look. This is not on account of global warming - that is comparatively a side issue, despite some politicians saying it is the world's most urgent problem. There will be different views on whether the world will stay on this course, or whether we will be saved by new resource discoveries and inventions. Meanwhile we would be well advised to develop contingency plans (like building up UK reserves and investing to cut longer-term consumption). This editorial note is prompted by John Busby having contacted Revolt to draw attention to the Busby Report at http://www.after-oil.co.uk see APPENDIX 4 for comments.
7. The prime minister said 8.12.04 that the UK was not expected to meet its pledge to cut carbon dioxide emissions to 20% below 1990 levels by 2010. But he stressed it was on course to hit the 12.5% cut demanded in the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gases. He claimed the UK was on course to meet a 14% cut by 2020. news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/4077193.stm
8. The EU REFLEX project on EMF points towards reinforcing concerns about health effects, from its latest studies on fundamental cellular and molecular mechanisms, according to notes passed on by Ingrid Dickenson (APPENDIX 5).
9. Revolt has been contacted by Greenfacts, an "independent non-profit organization publishing scientific facts on health and the environment" based in Brussels. It has laudable aims and methods, though the results may tend towards the establishment view presented as "consensus". What do colleagues think? http://www.greenfacts.org
10. The Revolt web site <http://www.revolt.co.uk> is having a face lift and re-organisation, so that old stuff will remain as archives and new material will build up from a new home page. Feedback would be welcome.
APPENDIX 1 From Sunday Herald 21/11/2004
Giant pylons plan sparks official protest
National Trust for Scotland attacks proposal for 50-metre high network across protected Highland sites By Rob Edwards http://www.sundayherald.com/np/Rob-Edwards.shtml , Environment Editor
The National Trust for Scotland has joined the growing chorus of protest against plans to erect giant pylons across the Highlands to bring renewable electricity from the Western Isles.
Alarmed about the damage a long line of 50-metre pylons would inflict on the landscape, the influential conservation organisation has launched an unusually strong attack. It has condemned the way the plans are being promoted by a subsidiary of the power company, Scottish and Southern Energy, as "wholly unsatisfactory" and "unacceptably piecemeal".
Last week, all five of the routes proposed for the pylons were rejected by Highland Council because of the threat they posed to "the natural and cultural heritage".
The government's nature conservation agency, Scottish Natural Heritage, also pointed out that every proposed route would go through several areas protected under international law because of their importance to wildlife.
The five routes are all designed to take power from Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis to electricity substations at either Beauly, near Inverness, or Fort Augustus at the other end of Loch Ness. They have been put forward for consultation by Scottish Hydro-Electric Transmission Ltd, which is owned by Scottish and Southern Energy.
The company's preferred route goes to Beauly via Ullapool and Garve, but it has also asked for comments on routes to Beauly via Scourie and Melvich in Sutherland. Two other routes to Fort Augustus via Broadford or Hallin on the Isle of Skye are also under consideration.
The pylons are tied in with plans to build three large wind farms on Lewis. By far the largest and the most controversial is a scheme proposed by two multinational companies, British Energy and AMEC, to erect 234 wind turbines across 40 kilomet res of peat bog around Stornoway.
What has most infuriated the National Trust for Scotland is that plans for the wind farms and the pylons are not being taken together. "It is wholly unsatisfactory that this line is being considered separately from those of major wind farms on Lewis," said the trust's head of policy and planning, John Mayhew.
"This is regrettable, as it brings renewable energy into disrepute, generates unnecessary conflict between developers, local communities and conservation bodies and threatens to inflict unnecessary damage upon Scotland's superb landscapes."
The trust rejects the basic premise that any power line has to be connected to the electricity grid at either Beauly or Fort Augustus. Instead, it says, consideration should be given to laying a cable under the sea from the Western Isles to England.
"The trust fundamentally disagrees with the way in which this proposal is being taken forward," said Mayhew.
"The generation of renewable energy in northern Scotland and its transmission to the main centres of demand should be subject to strategic environmental assessment."
Highland Council has also called for further investigation into a sub- sea route from Lewis to the south of Scotland or England.
If this is not feasible, councillors say the power should be brought ashore at the Dounreay nuclear plant on the north coast, and the existing line south upgraded.
Scottish Natural Heritage said that a sub-sea cable south from Lewis should be reconsidered if there was no acceptable route across the Highlands. It also suggested burying cables underground for part of the way to reduce some of the potential environmental impacts.
Scottish and Southern Energy stressed that it had to work within the existing planning framework. "We acknowledge that this is a very important environmental issue," said spokesman Alan Young.
"We will work with all the agencies and stakeholders involved to try and find the best means of delivering electricity generated on the Western Isles to the national grid."
Young pointed out that sub-sea cables were expensive and had an impact on the marine environment.
Burying the cables underground was 10-25 times more costly than overhead pylons and required what Young described as "motorway-style construction".
21 November 2004
APPENDIX 2 from news@all-energy Nov 04:
3.4.Grid expansion in Scotland
Highland Council's planning committee opted for a proposal to take electricity from a proposed giant windfarm in the Western Isles to the national grid via a future submarine transmission cable, coming ashore at Dounreay in Caithness; see article.
Scottish Natural Heritage said five possible routes for the transmission line are all likely to have a significant impact and could affect a number of internationally important nature sites http://news.scotsman.com/scotland.cfm?id=1331912004
The National Trust for Scotland has joined the chorus of protest against the plans www.sundayherald.com/46189
APPENDIX 3 Hormesis: Is there a tonic in the toxin?
By Nell Boyce, US News and World Report Oct 18, 2004
The idea that a small amount of a dangerous substance can stimulate the body's defenses isn't new--just think of vaccines. But try arguing that this same notion can apply to toxic environmental chemicals like arsenic and dioxins and you'll quickly get written off as either a quack or an apologist for polluters. Edward Calabrese argues just that, and somehow he has managed not to be demonized for his theory.
For years, this toxicologist has quietly worked at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst to bolster the credibility of the scientific theory known as "hormesis" --the idea that exposures to chemicals or radiation at low doses can have the opposite effect than at high doses. The field has been much maligned and confused with scientifically sketchy homeopathy since 1888, when a German pharmacologist named Hugo Schulz first noted that small amounts of poison encouraged the growth of yeast. Unlike homeopathy, however, which can involve solutions so dilute that they no longer contain any trace of the active substance, hormesis happens at low but real exposures that can often approximate the actual levels of toxins people encounter every day.
These low levels rarely get tested in the lab. That's because standard toxicology tests use much higher doses to quickly but roughly extrapolate what happens in the real world. Regulators currently assume that toxins either always pose some risk at any level or that there's a threshold below which toxins won't cause health problems. But while these assumptions are used to regulate everything from mercury to pesticides, Calabrese argues that they just don't reflect the paradoxical and sometimes beneficial effects seen at low doses in the lab. "The central pillar of toxicology is the dose response," he says. "I'm telling them that they got the most fundamental aspect of their field wrong."
By sticking to the science, Calabrese has brought hormesis to a previously unimagined level of respectability, with articles in top science journals and sessions at major toxicology meetings. And he's taking the logical next step--venturing out into the messy political world of environmental regulation, where passions run high. This past summer, in Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, he proposed the heretical idea that government regulators switch to the hormesis model to assess how environmental chemicals affect humans' health.
That idea gives fits to environmental activists. They fear it might give regulators an excuse to let toxins linger in the environment. "I don't have a quarrel with Calabrese's science," says Gina Solomon of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "But I do have a quarrel with how this can be misused in the regulatory process." For Calabrese, however, it seems like the natural extension of what he's learned over the past two decades. "People had thought about hormesis in the past, but they were very ideological," he says. "I see hormesis as intellectually interesting."
Years before he ever heard the term "hormesis," back when he was a college student, Calabrese had his first brush with what was to become his calling. In one botany experiment, he noticed something weird: A chemical that was supposed to inhibit plant growth would, at low doses, spur the growth of peppermint. The oddity got stuck in the back of his mind as he finished his Ph.D., but the zeitgeist wasn't right for this idea. Rachel Carson's environmental classic Silent Spring had come out in 1962, the first Earth Day had been held in 1970, and the environmental sciences were booming.
One day, however, the mail brought an advertisement for a meeting on radiation hormesis, the idea that radiation can kick-start the body's defenses and improve health. Reminded of his mint plants, Calabrese wondered if anyone had looked at this notion in chemicals. He decided to test the idea and began to find various examples of toxins doing some good for plants and animals at low doses.
His colleagues scoffed, arguing that it must be a rare and insignificant effect. So Calabrese and colleague Linda Baldwin did a survey of some 4,000 toxicology studies reported in science journals. They found that about 350 showed chemicals had opposite effects at low levels. And the actual prevalence could exceed that, as most of these studies weren't designed to tease out subtle effects that happen at tiny doses.
These days, most toxicologists accept Calabrese's general premise that tiny doses can have strange effects. As Linda Birnbaum, director of the experimental toxicology division of the Environmental Protection Agency and president of the Society of Toxicology, says: "Just looking at a high dose when we are killing animals or causing very overt, obvious problems may not tell us what is happening at the low-dose region. The real challenge for the next years is to understand how we approach this complexity." Still, while interest in low doses has grown, the emphasis has generally been on overlooked harms.
Calabrese courts controversy because he doesn't discount the possibility that low doses could improve health. As a result, "people tend to think of hormesis as a beneficial response," says Birnbaum, who believes it's not so simple. Low doses of certain chemicals might help some body systems while hurting others. They could, for example, help prevent cancer but also interfere with the immune system or fertility.
Calabrese doesn't disagree. "Some people describe it as a beneficial effect at low doses. I don't do that," he says. "I have tried to emphasize that there are opportunities for good and bad here." For example, he and colleagues have a study next month in Reproductive Toxicology that shows that higher levels of lead can delay puberty in mice, while lower levels can speed it up. So, should regulators try to push lead levels as low as possible, or not? "It challenges regulatory risk assessment concepts," he says.
Despite his willingness to consider that toxins can sometimes be beneficial, Calabrese seems to enjoy needling industry just as much as challenging environmentalists. He's taken industry-unfriendly positions like the notion that a single brief exposure to a carcinogen might be enough to trigger cancer, and in one political fight over the cleanup of a military site, he argued for a more rigorous cleanup than even the EPA.
But intellectually, Calabrese says, he thinks hormesis should "win." And even as he lays siege to his profession's sacred pillar, he acts surprised that anyone would feel threatened, as if this toxicology debate were like a baseball game or a bike race where everyone goes for the gusto and then shakes hands at the end. The disconnect helps explain why this scientist who is so comfortable with chemicals' paradoxical effects has trouble understanding how people on every side of a debate can find his work so alarming. "I view myself as quiet and mild-mannered," Calabrese says with a sort of mystified shrug, "but I seem to get embroiled in controversy."
APPENDIX 4 Notes on the Busby Report http://www.after-oil.co.uk
These notes are my first impression after a quick skim of key sections of the report, and accompany my comments at point 6 of this Revolt news above.
Revolt was contacted by John Busby, a retired international technologist with a wealth of experience relating to energy and industry in many countries. He has produced a report addressing the global problems of energy and related long term economic risks, including an outline survival plan for the UK. At a skim the report seems to be well informed, well referenced and up to date, and worth taking note of without necessarily agreeing with all the detail.
Indeed, it may be possible to disagree with every detail yet still accept the general problem and the urgency of making precautionary preparation.
The report starts with a substantial Introduction and goes through main sections on Energy Resources, Transport, and Social Policies, before concluding with an outline UK National Plan. This is a commendable effort for what appears to be an individual, albeit with long experience. It draws on larger works from the Limits to Growth through the IPCC to recent BP reports and UK government statistics and the Energy White Paper, among other sources.
Perhaps it is pessimistic, in not expecting discovery and innovation to change things much, but that is understandable as a starting point for precautionary policy, although elsewhere we look also to proportionality in precaution.
Nuclear energy is dismissed with reference to such factors as civil and political safety, life cycle cost and uranium resource depletion. It is good that these things are investigated. The nuclear industry has been required to lead the way in accounting for life cycle cost. But accounting for the decommissioning and disposal of all buildings and site within the life cycle of one power station fails to allow for re- use of buildings and site for new reactors. New reactors which would consume some nuclear waste are mentioned, but not the new developments of smaller scale cleaner reactors which have figured in Revolt news this year, and not fusion. One precautionary policy should perhaps be to continue to research more benign nuclear technology.
Hydrogen is also dismissed with reference to energy input-to-output ratios, and to the scale required to displace transport fuels. Hydrogen produced with renewable electricity compares unfavourably with the direct use of the electricity in transport, thus electric trains are preferred to hydrogen-fuelled cars. These are good points, but where renewable generation can manufacture hydrogen, albeit with efficiency losses, that can be valuable, especially where the renewable generation is intermittent and therefore very limited in its direct use.
Busby of course recommends renewable energy as far as that can go, but seems to overlook the serious limitation of wind power generation in its severe variability and intermittence. Overall his pitch seemed somewhat pro-wind and anti-nuclear, but he does offer lots of data and calculation.
Be that as it may, and my quick scan has probably missed key points, the main message is that the long-term problem is serious and global, and the UK should prepare, not least by steering towards a low energy economy. I don't know how many other long-term plans are out there, but this one, although relatively short, goes further and wider then the UK Energy White Paper or the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in addressing global economic collapse. Grim stuff!
APPENDIX 5 EU REFLEX Project.
----- Original Message ----- From: Janet Newton Sent: Friday, December 10, 2004 7:23 PM Subject: EU REFLEX Project Report
To All -
The Report of the European Union's REFLEX Project (Risk Evaluation of Potential Environmental Hazards from Low Frequency Electromagnetic Field Exposure Using Sensitive in vitro Methods) was released in November, 2004. The Project studied ELF and RF exposures to various cell types. Swedish RF researcher and epidemiologist Lennart Hardell has sent the link to the entire 291-page report (See below. It's a long download, so be patient).
Of particular interest after as cursory read through - pp. 1-3 Foreward by Ross Adey pp. 7-8 Introduction - the goals of the REFLEX Project pp. 239-242 Section 7.0 POLICY RELATED BENEFITS.
From 7.12 Summary ... the omnipresence of EMF's in infrastructures and consumer products have become a topic of public concern. This is due to the fear of people that based on the many conflicting research data a risk to their health cannot be excluded with some certainty. Therefore, the overall objective of REFLEX was to find out whether or not the fundamental biological processes at the cellular and molecular level support such an assumption. For this purpose, possible effects of EMFs on cellular events controlling key functions, including those involved in carcinogenesis and in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disorders, were studied through focussed research. Failure to observe the occurrence of such key critical events in living cells after EMF exposure would have suggested that further research efforts in this field could be suspended and financial resources be reallocated to the investigation of more important issues. But as clearly demonstrated, the results of the REFLEX project show the way into the opposite direction.
Key emphases of the REFLEX Project were to develop reliable exposure equipment, to assure that exposure parameters were consistent and thoroughly documented, and to examine how differences in techniques for cell culture preparation such as staining of specimens yielded differing results. Along with consistency in genotype of study specimens, these emphases are of crucial importance to the replication of studies from one laboratory to another.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org To: JNewton@emrpolicy.org Subject: SV: DC Circuit decision - EMR v. FCC Date: Thu, 9 Dec 2004 08:18:04 +0100
Did you see this of major importance as to regulation of SAR from mobile phones? Link
Yours sincerely, Lennart Hardell
Janet Newton, President The EMR Policy Institute, P.O. Box 117, Marshfield VT 05658 Tel: (802) 426-3035 FAX: (802) 426-3030 Web Site: www.emrpolicy.org
APPENDIX 6 Movement of pylon near Sale, Greater Manchester.
This note is based on personal reports. While none of this is offered here as allegation, the reports seem to give grounds for concern in the context of a lack of clear public information.
A National Grid pylon near New Farm, Sale, was relocated after compulsory purchase (CPO) of the land by the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive (GMPTE) for a transport development scheme, which was later abandoned. The CPO and relocation were to facilitate that transport scheme. The relocation was to take the power line over two semi-detached cottages which were to be demolished.
The new landowner GMPTE appears later to have given or sold the land, no-longer needed in the public interest, to Sale Golf Club, in apparent contravention of the rules for reversing CPOs. Then the two semi- detached cottages were to be converted to a new club-house, the former occupiers having been evicted. NG are said to have sited the pylon in their "preferred location", rather than in the permitted position, apparently to suit Sale Golf Club and with the new landowner's agreement.
But the new position puts the line right up against a neighbour's land. It is claimed that the illegally moved pylon has caused the line to oversail the neighbour's land, without the required wayleave, so it is doubly illegal. The matter is with the Secretary of State for Transport and the DTI for investigation.
The question of need for a wayleave where there is a possible or contested oversail is interesting. There is the question of swing in the wind and of interference with the landowner's use of the land. This is being tested in this case by a proposal to put a flag pole at the edge of the land close to the line. If this can not be done without restriction, then restrictive powers would be needed over the land, which might imply that a wayleave would be needed.
Other landowners with an uncomfortably close neighbouring power line may wish to consider proposing to erect a pole (flag or otherwise) on the edge of their land to test the case. They are of course advised against holding up a metal pole (or even a wooden one) anywhere near a power line, for safety reasons. The planning laws on flag poles are themselves interesting. Apparently a plain white flag does not require permission but one identifying the premises could be construed as advertising. Perhaps a pole with a bird box would escape planning permission. I think there is a rule on height which requires permission above 15 metres as for telecoms masts.
The Sale case also raises the question as to whether other pylons may have been moved illegally for inappropriate reasons. Interested parties may wish to check with their local authorities and the DTI if they suspect any particular pylons may be incorrectly sited.
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