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Keystone Pipeline Leaks More Than 200,000 Gallons of Oil in South Dakota

 By: Adam K. Raymond, Source: NY Mag, Originally Published: 11.16.17

The Keystone pipeline, which carries oil from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico, was shutdown Thursday after it leaked 210,000 gallons of oil in South Dakota, operator TransCanada said.

The leak was discovered at 6 a.m. Thursday on a stretch of the pipeline passing through a rural part of the state outside of Amherst. Cleanup crews are reportedly at work, and state officials say they don’t think the oil has reached any waterways or drinking water systems.

Former Coal Executive With Shoddy Safety Record Will Lead Mine Safety Agency

By: Adam K. Raymond, Source: NY Mag, Originally Published: 11.15.17

The Senate Wednesday confirmed a former coal executive with a dismal safety record to lead the government’s top agency regulating mine safety. President Trump’s nomination of David Zatezalo, former CEO of Kentucky-based Rhino Resources, was approved by a party-line vote of 52-48.

Zatezalo will bring an unconventional perspective to the Mine Health and Safety Administration (MSHA) after serving as a top executive at a company hit with two “pattern of violations” citations by the agency. That specific sanction is a rarely used tool that former MSHA head Joe Main began wielding in 2010 after the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster killed 29 people.

South Carolina to Stop Jailing Poor People for Unpaid Traffic Tickets

By: Eric Levits, Source: NY Mag, Originally Published: 11.9.17

In the United States, many municipalities rely on fines from traffic violations and other misdemeanors to fund basic government services. The upside of this means of revenue generation, from a political perspective, is that it’s invisible to most voters, and painless for rich people (who are often campaign donors).

But the policy’s downsides are considerable.

For one thing, you generally need to milk those fines from the most disempowered community in your area (any police chief who aggressively cracks down on every little misdemeanor rich, well-connected people commit won’t be in office for long). But the thing about disempowered people is, they don’t have a lot of money. So it can be a real hassle to get them to pay up. And then, if they wish to contest their fine in court, you’ve got to provide them with an attorney. Pretty soon, you’re spending more on collecting the fines than they’re even worth.

We May Be Severely Underestimating the Number of Car Fatalities Caused by Cell Phones

By: Paris Martineau, Source: NYmag.com, Originally Published: 10.17.17

It’s a pretty self-evident fact that cell-phone use makes you a crappy driver. But the consequences of that crappy driving are still murky: According to a recent report by Bloomberg, what we think we know about our cell-phone usage behind the wheel is wildly inaccurate, and that’s a serious problem.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration keeps a running tally of all of the vehicular-related fatalities that occur each year in the U.S., and it’s from that information that lawmakers, journalists, and activists decide where to focus their energies. Bloomberg’s report found that the NHTSA’s data set is severely underreporting one major cause of road fatalities: cell-phone usage.

Courts Sidestep the Law, and South Carolina’s Poor Go to Jail

By: Timothy Williams, Source: NY Times, Originally Published: October 12, 2017

 SUMTER, S.C. — Larry Marsh has a history of mental illness and drug addiction. Homeless, he has no place to go. The police in this city have arrested or cited him more than 270 times for trespassing. In December, they got him four times in one day.

For this misdemeanor offense, Mr. Marsh, 58, has repeatedly served time in jail, and was even sent to prison. Not once has he had a lawyer.

Being represented by a lawyer is a fundamental right, enshrined in the Sixth Amendment and affirmed by the Supreme Court, which has ruled that anyone facing imprisonment, even for a minor offense, is entitled to legal counsel. But the promise has been a fragile one, with repeated complaints that people without means are stuck with lawyers who are incompetent, underfunded or grossly overworked.

Deadly crashes spur calls for tractor-trailer side guards

By: Mary Esch Associated Press, Source: The Sentinel, Originally Published: 7.30.17

Fifty years after actress Jayne Mansfield died in a Buick that slammed underneath a tractor-trailer, auto safety advocates say regulations inspired by that gruesome crash need updating to prevent hundreds of similar deaths annually.

“We’re asking Congress to pass a bill that would mandate comprehensive underride protection, not only on tractor-trailers but on single-unit trucks,” such as dump trucks, said Marianne Karth, who lost two teenage daughters, AnnaLeah and Mary, when her Crown Victoria crashed beneath a tractor-trailer in Georgia in 2013.

After two cars skidded under a jackknifed milk tanker truck in northern New York on July 6, killing four people, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer called on federal regulators to order big trucks to be equipped with side guards that would prevent cars from sliding beneath them in a crash.

Michigan Officials Charged with Involuntary Manslaughter in Flint Water Crisis

Michigan’s attorney general said officials failed to act to stop the Flint water crisis, leading to at least one death.

By: Adolfo Flores, Source: Buzzfeed, Originally Published: 6.14.17

The head of Michigan’s health department and four other officials were charged Wednesday with involuntary manslaughter for their alleged failure to act in the Flint water crisis, which prosecutors say led to the death of an 85-year-old man who had Legionnaires’ disease.

Nick Lyon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), was the highest-ranking official to be charged. The others include former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley, former City of Flint Water Department Manager Howard Croft, the state Department of Environmental Quality Drinking Water’s chief, Liane Shekter-Smith, and Water Supervisor Stephen Busch. They all face up to 15 years in prison, as well as a $7,500 fine, if convicted.

“The health crisis in Flint has created a trust crisis for Michigan government, exposing a serious lack of confidence in leaders who accept responsibility and solve problems,” state Attorney General Bill Schuette said at a news conference.

 

Opioid Epidemic Leads to Increase in Trucking Accidents

By: Melanie J. VanOverloop, Source: The Legal Examiner, Originally Published: 6.19.17

Opioids are a class of highly addictive substances which are often prescribed for pain relief.  An individual taking an opioid can have slower reaction times, reduced coordination, blurred vision and drowsiness – all side effects that can impair a person’s ability to operate a vehicle safely. Currently, almost half of the nation’s truck drivers are over 50. Decades of sitting behind the wheel of a truck for extended periods of time can lead to back pain, joint pain, arthritis and many other medical conditions for which opioids are often prescribed. Although federal regulations prohibit drivers from using opioids and driving unless a doctor has advised them to do so, some drivers do not disclose their opioid use. The combination of opioids and the operation of a motor vehicle – particularly a commercial vehicle like an 18-wheeler – can be catastrophic.

EPA May Scrap Limit on How Much Mercury Coal Plants Can Spew

By: Eric Levitz, Source: New York Magazine, Originally Published: 4.19.17

In 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency passed a rule limiting the amount of heavy metals that coal-fired power plants could spew into the air. The agency’s research suggested that the rule would prevent 11,000 deaths, 4,700 heart attacks, and 130,000 asthma attacks every year. These findings meant that, for every dollar spent on enforcing the new regulation, the public would enjoy up to $9 in avoided medical costs.

But the Obama administration’s coastal elites failed to understand that the forgotten men and women of America’s heartland actually want their children exposed to dangerous levels of mercury — if that’s what it takes to maximize energy companies’ profit margins. And so, many red states stood up for their constituents’ inalienable right to die from preventable asthma attacks, and sued the federal government over the EPA’s rule.