Monday, April 28, 2014

Culture of excess, waste, no accountability topple GSA administrator


The Washington Post has published a blog story about the fall of Martha Johnson, the former administrator for the General Services Administration. Within this kind of corrupt government culture outlined in the story, it's no wonder that there was no concern for historic preservation for STORIS. It's apparently all one big orgy of self-serving indulgent debauchery at the GSA.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-leadership/wp/2014/04/25/resigned-martha-johnsons-fast-fall-from-power-at-the-gsa/


(Originally posted April 26, 2014)


US Coast Guard still stalling with FOIA release; MARAD update


It’s been FIVE MONTHS AND THREE WEEKS – 172 days – since I submitted my original FOIA requests.

Here is a brief update for the ongoing efforts to secure information about the illegal excessing, sale and export of STORIS for foreign scrapping.

I spoke briefly today with Evan Wisser, a MARAD attorney, regarding an appeal I submitted regarding information that was redacted/withheld in the March 11, 2014 partial release of information. He indicated that MARAD is currently compiling a second, larger batch of materials associated with STORIS and MARAD’s FOIA department is currently reviewing those materials prior to release. There is no indication as to when those materials will be available. There is also no indication whether that will be the final batch or if more records will come to light beyond that collection of materials. Meanwhile, he indicated that he will be reviewing my appeal of the redacted materials.

The U.S. Coast Guard continues to be a MAJOR problem. A written appeal is currently en route via US Postal Service regarding the partial response sent on Feb. 27.

The Coast Guard claims that a search for maintenance records and logbooks for STORIS at the Office of Cutter Forces was unsuccessful and no records for the ship were found. This is a disingenuous response.  Knowledgeable Coast Guard veterans have told me that cutter deck logbooks are not kept at the Office of Cutter Forces, but are processed through the local Coast Guard districts where the ships are stationed and then forwarded to the regional branches of the National Archives for permanent storage. For STORIS, it was believed that engineering logbooks were sent to ISC Alameda and on to another storage location. As far as maintenance records, manifests and associated documentation, STORIS had been decommissioned for over 6 ½ years at the time of my request. It is my understanding that those types of records are archived or purged from the technical library at the Office of Cutter Forces when a cutter is retired, typically sent to the NARA facility at College Park.

It’s a matter of the Coast Guard administration knowing what happened to the records based on established protocol and procedures, but now not saying where they went. It does not seem right that the Coast Guard would outright dispose of or destroy the records associated with the ship’s career and history. It also stands to reason that the office that handles decommissioned cutters and excess equipment would have had to have some of the records in order to follow the procedures necessary to dispose of STORIS.

I’ve received nothing in response, not even related to the volume of recent correspondence triggered by the efforts to preserve the ship or her sale and export. I sent an email message to Amanda Ackerson of CG FOIA HQ on Feb. 14 requesting an update on the FOIA request. As of this writing, I have received no response.

The submitted appeal is here: http://goo.gl/KhvocL


(Originally posted April 25, 2014)

Six months later, illegal STORIS export remembered


It's hard to believe that it was six months ago today that STORIS was unceremoniously towed from Suisun Bay to start the illegal journey to Mexico and her ultimate dismantling. This should never have happened.

Though STORIS is gone, she will never be forgotten...

...nor will those bureaucrats who are responsible for this crime against history.


(Originally posted April 25, 2014)

MARAD offers transport ship for free - Why not ACUSHNET, GLACIER, STORIS?



Here’s one to make Coastie blood boil.

The U.S. Maritime Administration is currently offering for donation the transport USNS COMET (T-AKR-269) to interested parties. She is currently stored in the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet where STORIS had been moored from 2007-2013.

COMET was launched in July 31, 1957 and delivered in late January 1958.

At that point, USCGC STORIS had already been in service for almost 15 years, had fought in a World War as a member of the Greenland Patrols and was a month into her historic Northwest Passage transit. USCGC ACUSHNET had served in World War II (as USS SHACKLE) at Iwo Jima and Okinawa and had participated in the daring Coast Guard rescue in early 1952 of the SS FORT MERCER. USCGC GLACIER (as a Navy vessel) had already completed two Operation Deep Freeze missions – the first of which was her maiden voyage as RADM Richard E. Byrd’s flagship – and was assigned to her third Deep Freeze deployment.

You can read about COMET’s history here:

MARAD history of USNS COMET

COMET is the first of the RO/RO-type cargo transport vessels, or a “Roll-On, Roll-Off,” a designation that describes her configuration that allows the efficient loading, transport and unloading of wheeled vehicles and cargo.

The availability for COMET’s donation was announced in the Federal Register on April 7, 2014, which can be seen at 

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-04-07/pdf/2014-07671.pdf

The ship was again listed in the Federal Register for the Section 106 public comment period on April 23, 2014 http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-04-23/pdf/2014-07673.pdf

The availability has also been publicized through various blogs and other maritime-related sources. http://www.workboat.com/Blogs/Dock-Talk/Historic-Ro/Ro-free-to-a-good-home/

Through the normal decommissioning and excessing process, the historic context and statement of significance and Historic American Engineering Record completed for COMET in 2010 determined that the ship was ELIGIBLE for listing on the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion “C,” which would recognize her design.

That’s it. With all due respect to the crews who manned her over the years, her accomplishments pale in comparison to the aforementioned Coast Guard cutters.

A similar historic review process in 2006 determined that ACUSHNET and STORIS were both ELIGIBLE for listing on the National Register. Both cutters were eligible under Criteria A and C, which would account for their individual historic accomplishments during World War II and in Coast Guard service (A) and their engineering/design (C). STORIS was a decorated veteran of the Greenland Patrols and the flagship of the successful 1957 Northwest Passage transit while ACUSHNET served at Iwo Jima and Okinawa.  GLACIER’s Historic Context and Statement of Significance was completed in January 2011. GLACIER was eligible under Criterion A for her accomplishments in polar exploration and the establishment of permanent U.S. bases in Antarctica. GLACIER would ultimately serve on 29 Antarctic and 10 Arctic missions. She was also eligible for listing under Criterion B because of her close association with RADM Byrd and his historic accomplishments as a pioneer naval aviator, polar explorer and Medal of Honor recipient. GLACIER was also eligible under Criterion C for her design as the only icebreaker designed by and built for the U.S. Navy. GLACIER was also the largest and most powerful vessel of her type for more than 20 years.

STORIS (1991-2007) and ACUSHNET (2007-2011) both served as the prestigious “Queen of the Fleet” for the Coast Guard, as the oldest active cutters during those time periods.

While ACUSHNET and GLACIER were forsaken as far as National Register listing, STORIS was actually LISTED and DESIGNATED as NATIONALLY SIGNIFICANT on December 31, 2012.

COMET is 500 feet long, displaces some 16,000+ tons and is powered by 12,000 horsepower high-pressure steam turbines. IF someone were to take her, she would have to be a static museum. She would take up a lot of dock space.

Realistically, the attraction for such a ship compared to a decorated warship or an accomplished CG Cutter would be minimal. The three cutters were/are diesel-electric and would have been able to get underway for living history cruises and research/educational outings. This was a fundamental part of the museum plan for STORIS and GLACIER. There is not likely going to be interest in COMET as a living history ship, particularly in light of the fact that there are WWII-era Liberty ships that get underway where guests can actually buy tickets to go on living history cruises and experience these historic ships underway. These Liberties have low-pressure triple-expansion steam plants that are much safer to operate than a high pressure propulsion system. In other words, who is going to want this ship, especially with an early July deadline to put together an application for donation? What is MARAD doing to announce the availability so late and under these circumstances?

A huge question: WHY was this free donation offering not made available for STORIS or ACUSHNET? It’s clear now that both ships should not have been sold by the US Coast Guard through GSA as their displacements exceeded 1,500 tons (violating 40 U.S.C. 548). Instead, they should have been excessed through MARAD. There is also language within the Environmental Assessment for ACUSHNET and STORIS that direct donation of these ships was an option if selected by the Coast Guard. Yet all along, the STORIS Museum was led to believe that the only way a donation could be secured was through direct legislative action by Congress. When that route failed, STORIS Museum and The Last Patrol were forced to follow the GSA route with catastrophic results. The ship was sold to an extortionist “metal recycling” company who then illegally exported the ship to Mexico for scrapping (Section 3502 of the 2009 Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act and likely the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976).

And again, it begs the question that rips open the wounds of why the Glacier Society (http://glaciersociety.org/) was denied the opportunity by MARAD to preserve GLACIER?

There is an ugly and malicious double-standard being applied here, especially in light of the educational and cultural value that STORIS would have made as an active living history museum ship in Toledo. The same could be said for GLACIER in her proposed role with the Glacier Society in Miami. ACUSHNET never got the chance as the Federal Government on no account solicited interest in her for museum use. Instead, they couldn’t sell her fast enough after decommissioning to someone who has absolutely no business having her.

Is it because COMET is a MARAD favorite since it’s one of “their” ships? Or is this just a dog-and-pony show to say “well, we tried.” While MARAD is offering the ship for donation and soliciting comment for the Section 106 process, they are also simultaneously shopping the ship for disposal. The vessel has already been offered up for sampling by potential scrap buyers.

You can’t save every ship that has historic significance. But in the case of STORIS, GLACIER and ACUSHNET, they were special and very worthy candidates for historic preservation. STORIS and GLACIER had groups that were ready, willing and able to taken the ships and give them good homes that would have given so much to the communities where they were to be moored. STORIS had two groups and with both ships, the groups interested in saving them fought until the bitter end, but could not overcome the corrupt, bloated and apathetic bureaucracy that is our government.

The travesties committed by the bureaucrats who supposedly work for US speak volumes about the integrity of the Federal Government’s commitment to preserve and protect our maritime heritage, particularly that of the U.S. Coast Guard, with these remarkable and accomplished vessels that were eligible for or listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


(Originally posted April 25, 2014)

Basel Action Network monitors toxic foreign shipbreaking


Another source of information related to toxic substances and foreign shipbreaking is the site for the Basel Action Network or BAN. That environmental nonprofit’s Web site is at www.ban.org. BAN was on top of the situation with STORIS and tried to intervene with the export, even as we were also contacting legislators and officials in an attempt to block the export, knowing full well that there was a high likelihood that STORIS contained undocumented materials with PCBs higher than regulated levels.

In BAN’s online library, there are several links to various environmental issues related to shipbreaking.

Among them are
Dishonorable Disposal: http://ban.org/library/Dishonorable%20Disposal_BAN%20Report.pdf

And Sink Stink: http://ban.org/ban_news/2011/111207_sink_stink.html

While the U.S. is not a signatory to the Basel Convention, Mexico is. There are other regulations and agreements in place such as the The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), to which the U.S. is a member. The OECD is supposed to promote policies that improve the economic and social well-being of people around the globe. This would/should include preventing the export of U.S. military ships to lesser-developed countries for dismantling, essentially dumping industrial contamination created by the U.S. on these other countries, their infrastructures, environments and their citizens. While it was our intent to preserve STORIS for use as a museum ship to share her legacy with future generations, the U.S. Government crushed those hopes and allowed STORIS to be sent to Mexico for dismantling, likely violating the federal and international regulations that were in place to prevent such an occurrence from happening.


(Originally posted April 24, 2014)

Two U.S. Navy oilers, never completed despite costing millions, sent for scrap


Along the lines of shipbreaking and government waste, two U.S. Navy oilers built under contentious circumstances and costing taxpayers millions of dollars, were towed out to head for scrapping:

http://hamptonroads.com/2011/07/two-neverfinished-navy-ships-head-scrap-heap

(Originally posted April 24, 2014)

News site reviews stories, government records related to shipbreaking


More on foreign shipbreaking:

“MuckRock is a collaborative news site that brings together journalists, researchers, activists, and regular citizens to request, analyze & share government documents, making politics more transparent and democracies more informed.

The site provides a repository of hundreds of thousands of pages of original government materials, information on how to file requests, and tools to make the requesting process easier. In addition, MuckRock staff and outside contributors do original reporting and analysis of many of the documents received through the site.

MuckRock's unique form of investigative and accountability journalism has been recognized by the Sunlight Foundation, The Freedom of the Press Foundation, and hundreds of local and national news outlets for its groundbreaking work in areas such as government spending, surveillance, and public safety.

In addition, MuckRock works with journalists to help conceive, pursue, and publish original stories on issues that matter with exclusive primary materials obtained via public records law.” -- Source: https://www.muckrock.com/about/

The site is currently reviewing several stories and issues related to shipbreaking and ship disposal by the U.S. Government. One project is revisiting various Pulitzer Prize winning stories, including the 1997 story in the Baltimore Sun about the shipbreaking operations at Alang Beach, Gujarat, India.

The Sun link is here: http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1997-12-09/news/bal-pulitzer-shipbreakers-story-2_1_thirty-five-thousand-men-ships-work-at-dangerous-jobs


Some of the materials posted on the MuckRock site are related to the U.S. Navy and its practice of disposing of retired vessels through live-fire SINKEX evolutions.

http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2012/07/02/navy-resume-sinking-old-ships-waters/fGvO5RRYsd3KRvTmVqikAP/story.html


In the past, retired Coast Guard cutters have been used as SINKEX targets. These include another legendary USCG Queen of the Fleet, the CGC CAMPBELL (WHEC-32), sunk off Hawaii on Nov. 29, 1984. Others include the 180-foot Seagoing Buoy Tenders USCGC Clover (WLB-292), sunk as a target on June 26, 1990, USCGC Evergreen (WLB-295), sunk as a target on Nov. 25, 1992 and USCGC BLACKHAW (WLB-390) sunk off Puerto Rico in June 1997.

There are also outstanding FOIA requests for contracts with ESCO Marine, a major shipbreaker in Brownsville, TX. While not related to the FOIA request, ESCO is the yard where the USCGC GLACIER (WAGB-4) ended her existence after attempts to save that ship as a museum failed, in no small part thanks to government corruption.

The links through MuckRock are here:
•    https://www.muckrock.com/news/archives/2014/apr/14/The-Pulitzer-Project/
•    https://www.muckrock.com/foi/united-states-of-america-10/inspector-general-reports-on-navy-shipbreaking-11254/
•    https://www.muckrock.com/foi/united-states-of-america-10/shipbreaking-contracts-with-esco-marine-11253/
•    https://www.muckrock.com/foi/united-states-of-america-10/esco-marine-letters-and-reports-11255/

While the MuckRock organization is not directly involved with the FOIA requests related to STORIS and her destruction, the people affiliated with the site have been apprised of the situation and the materials generated through my efforts will be shared with them.


(Originally posted April 24, 2014)

Overseas shipbreaking a very dirty -- and deadly -- business


An aerial view of the Ensenada, Mexico, scrapyard where STORIS was dismantled. The "graving dock" is empty in this view from Google Maps but can be seen near the center of the photo.
The scrapyard in Ensenada, Mexico, is not environmentally friendly and would not meet the strict standards that are in place in the United States for shipbreaking. It has already been outlined in the post from March 12 in comments by maritime attorney Denise Rucker Krepp how the sale of a U.S. military vessel for foreign shipbreaking is a violation of section 3502 of the 2009 Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act. This language requires all U.S. government vessels to be scrapped at U.S. metal recycling facilities. The GSA sale of STORIS (and ACUSHNET, as well) also violates 40 U.S.C. 548, which mandates that MARAD be responsible for disposing of vessels greater than 1,500 gross tons. Then there are the issues of the export of STORIS, a U.S.-flagged vessel, that almost certainly contained regulated levels of Polychlorinated Biphenyls. This would have violated the export regulations of the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA).

These are among the laws that are designed to keep U.S. vessels, the shipping industry and especially the U.S. Government from dumping its waste and disposal problems on lesser-developed countries. Yet the U.S. Government broke its own laws in the series of actions that led to the excessing, sale, export and ultimate destruction of the nationally historic USCGC STORIS.

STORIS should never have been disposed of as she was. It was bad enough that the GSA broke off negotiations to preserve the ship to sell her to a buyer of questionable legal standing who then spent weeks trying to extort the two nonprofits that were legitimately trying to preserve her. Then the U.S. Government stood by and DID NOTHING as that buyer illegally exported the ship to be dismantled in a foreign scrapyard.

Shipbreaking in lesser-developed/third world countries is a major worldwide environmental and occupational safety concern. The creation of the Ensenada yard was protested by environmentalists who pointed out that the yard is directly adjacent to the municipal swimming beach. The yard is essentially a dock sticking out into the harbor adjacent to the major cement terminal in the port. The "graving dock" where STORIS was ultimately cut up, if you can even call it a graving dock, is in the middle of a field, with no apparent support facilities to protect the surrounding area. This scrap yard is also near protected wildlife habitat. The fire ignited aboard the fish processing barge BERING STAR by scrapping operations that allowed us to pinpoint STORIS' location in the resultant media photos shows the danger that yard poses to the area. Toxic smoke from the early November fire spread across the area, forcing evacuations until the blaze could be brought under control. Ironically, BERING STAR began life as a U.S. Army barge, built in 1942. Again, another U.S. vessel sold for dismantling in a foreign shipyard... Yet it is these lax regulations and cheap labor that make places like Ensenada attractive, especially for the STORIS buyer, who could never have made a profit domestically scrapping STORIS in the U.S.

A story in today's Daily Mail outlines the conditions at Chittagong, Bangladesh. Conditions are similar at Gadani, Pakistan and at perhaps the most famous of the third-world breakers, Alang Beach, Gujarat, India. The May issue of National Geographic magazine will feature a story on Chittagong's shipbreaking industry.


Here's the direct link to the National Geographic story about Chittagong

National Geographic footage.

Overseas scrapyard workers in these yards -- usually without any safety gear and quite often even without SHOES -- literally cut the ships apart with saws and torches, ripping the steel apart with their bare hands, leaving streams of oil and other contaminants running into the sea. Women and children forage through the toxic soup on the beach to scrounge for bits of metal they can sell for food money. Men are maimed and killed regularly.

Here are some links to related YouTube videos that are excellent illustrations of shipbreaking at Chittagong, Bangladesh, and reflects third-world shipbreaking rather well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lk0xbjamHt0

Here is another site with Chittagong from the BBC: 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-18182706

One from CBS news/60 Minutes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ia7xnmcQbNg

And Alang Beach, Gujarat, India:

Pt 1
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGDZiWwF_V0

pt 2
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vb_WSTmhQ14


 

There is more information being compiled on foreign shipbreaking that will be posted soon. 

(Originally posted April 23, 1014)

EPA releases information for second FOIA


The EPA has responded to my second Freedom of Information Act request. There isn’t much in the way of anything remarkable except for what is absent. The EPA claims to have had no contact with Mexican authorities and there have been no requests to reimport the ship’s electrical system into the U.S.

As you recall, I had been told by an Associated Press reporter that the lab scientist who performed the PCB testing on the ship claimed that no PCBs were found but the ship’s electrical system was being sent back to the U.S. for recycling. The copper would have been very valuable, so why would they ship it back to the U.S. if it wasn’t for the high likelihood that it was contaminated with PCBs because of its age? Someone is fibbing somewhere, but no surprises there.


It's also worthy to note that I received two copies of the cover letter from EPA, one on April 16 and one on April 17. The document was stamped MARCH 15. How can they keep track of deadlines when they can't even release information stamped with the correct date?


The link to the released documents is here: http://goo.gl/BywNdj


(Originally posted April 21, 2014)

MARAD FOIA Update

 
A brief update to the MARAD FOIA request. As posted on March 26, the Maritime Administration “partially released” information related to STORIS on March 11. I had correspondence with MARAD last week as I have received no further information related of the ship and the 30-day appeal period established by the March 11 release letter was coming to a close.

Here is the appeal I submitted: 

http://goo.gl/smpuIG

And the response from MARAD: http://goo.gl/TyfGFD

I also missed a phone call from a MARAD attorney on Friday. I am hoping to work a call-back to MARAD sometime this week around a busy schedule.


(Originally posted April 14, 2014)

STORIS not the first Queen to be dishonored: CGC ACUSHNET pt. 2

Photos:

USCGC ACUSHNET and USCGC STORIS, together in a photo for the Historic American Engineering Record.

The USS HOGA (YT-146) assists the burning USS NEVADA (BB-36) out of the main channel during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941. NEVADA was the only battleship able to sortie during the attack but was badly damaged and in danger of sinking in the channel, obstructing the harbor. HOGA helped beach the NEVADA at Hospital Point, out of the channel. The plucky little tug then helped fight fires and rescue survivors throughout the harbor area.

As outlined earlier, STORIS was identified in the December 2006 Environmental Assessment as being problematic because of PCB contamination, relegating her to special disposition procedures because of the TSCA. STORIS would have had to be transferred to another US federal agency, a foreign government, or a museum nonprofit by conditional donation. However, the removal of 18 linear feet of a black foam insulation in January 2007 miraculously made STORIS free of regulated PCBs. ACUSHNET was declared PCB-free in the EA. The transfer of any property that is contaminated with hazardous materials such as PCBs, asbestos, or lead-based paint through GSA is regulated by 41 CFR 101-42.

PCBs were extensively used in shipbuilding and maintenance applications up until the chemicals were banned in 1979. Since both ships were constructed during World War II and similar coatings, lubricants, wiring and other materials that would have contained PCBs as a matter of the pervasive use of these substances, the likelihood that either ship was truly “PCB-free” is seriously open to debate. Several other cutters that were of World War II vintage that would have used similar materials and their PCB-free status also come into question, particularly the three 180-foot Seagoing Buoy Tenders on the Great Lakes that are used as museum ships, BRAMBLE (WLB-392), SUNDEW (WLB-404) and ACACIA (WLB-406), as well as the heavy icebreaker MACKINAW (WAGB-83). MACKINAW was built in Toledo right after STORIS. Then there is IRONWOOD (WLB-297), which is used as a training ship in Astoria, OR.

While the 180s were updated with new wiring in the 1970s during their MAJREN yard periods, the wiring would still have been manufactured before the 1979 PCB ban. Earlier coats of interior paints that may have contained PCB-based flame retardants would also still be on board beneath subsequent layers of paint from later years. I have been told it would unusual for all interior paint surfaces to be blasted to bare metal as were some of the outer hulls, so it is still quite possible that all these ships contain PCBs to some degree. Two other 180s, PLANETREE (WLB-307) and IRIS (WLB-395) are currently in the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet mooring where STORIS spent six years. They are currently being offered for scrap through a memorandum of agreement between the U.S. Coast Guard and MARAD as these two ships are considered too contaminated with PCBs and other toxic materials to sell or donate for any other purpose without Congressional approval. It does raise some legitimate questions, particularly with the sparse paper trail leading back to the U.S. Coast Guard related to exactly how all of these ships were remediated of hazardous materials. Even the recently released MARAD paperwork related to STORIS questioned the validity of the CG’s position that the ship was clean.

It’s expensive and comprehensive to test absolutely everything that may contain PCBs on older ships, so it is accepted within the U.S. shipbreaking industry that only way a ship of that vintage can be totally and truly PCB-free would be to dismantle it and properly recycle all the materials to absolutely remove any possible PCB-impregnated materials.

Again, a good read of the pervasive use of PCBs on obsolete vessels is here: http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monograph_reports/MR1377/MR1377.appc.pdf

When donating ships for preservation and museum/monument use, the U.S. Navy requires that the museum groups enter into a very detailed, extensive three-way agreement between the EPA, the Navy and recipient of the ship that binds the museum group to recognize the probability of PCB contamination on board the ship they are receiving. The agreements outline the locations where PCBs may be found and the legal obligations for how to handle any work that might disturb the PCB-containing material. Had STORIS Museum and The Last Patrol been successful in taking custody of STORIS from the government, I have been told by two experts in the shipping industry that the museum organizations would have had to sign such an agreement. Yet there is no evidence that any such documentation was required by the U.S. Government agencies involved with the excessing, sale and approval for export of the ship. There also does not seem to be any evidence of similar agreements for the 180s and MACKINAW.

Here are examples of such PCB agreements, these being from the USS HOGA, a 1941-built tugboat that is a National Historic Landmark as the last of the ships that was physically AT Pearl Harbor during the Dec. 7 attack. These agreements serve as a waiver of the TSCA that regulates PCBs. This is one of the federal laws that was likely violated with the excessing/sale of STORIS and export for scrapping in a “lesser-developed” country. (Violation of TSCA probably also includes the sales of ACUSHNET and the other ships as federal law prohibits the “distribution in commerce” of vessels containing PCBs…) HOGA was built in the same time frame as STORIS and would likely have used much of the same construction and maintenance materials over the years. After her Navy years, she was used as a fireboat in Oakland, CA.

The donation agreement for HOGA: http://goo.gl/S8qHck

The agreement between the EPA and U.S. Navy: http://goo.gl/A9SGFj

The binding agreement for the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum, recipient of HOGA: http://goo.gl/TIjQXY

While HOGA requires these strict waivers to comply with TSCA, the Coast Guard ships do not have these agreements. Instead, there are simple, one-line designations within their paperwork that identify them as “PCB-free” with no backup documentation to prove HOW they are clean, with no details of remediation or how extensive testing would prove otherwise.

More about HOGA: http://www.navyhistory.org/2012/12/pearl-harbor-survivor-tugboat-uss-hoga/

The tug is currently in the SF Bay area while the Arkansas museum works to collect donations to fund the tow to her proposed display berth in North Little Rock.

The statements received from members of STORIS’ last crew validated the concerns that STO had undocumented materials on board that would have contained regulated amounts of PCBs. It stands to reason that, if the same lax testing procedures were used to look for PCBs on the other ships by following testing procedures that intentionally avoided sampling locations where PCBs would be found, that the other ships likely contain PCBs on board. MACKINAW’s paperwork shows PCB testing performed in a similar fashion to that which was done on STORIS a few months later. I have had STORIS crew who also briefly sailed on ACUSHNET tell me that she was similarly equipped and configured with equipment that was “old.” I also had a very experienced Coast Guard officer who served on several 180s and MACKINAW tell me about potential locations where old wiring and paint would be found. Yet looking at the Environmental Assessments for STORIS/ACUSHNET and MACKINAW as well as the transfer paperwork for BRAMBLE, serious questions arise as to the true validity of the “PCB-free” designation.

These circumstances, as outlined, seem to demonstrate a serious issue of how the government disposed of these vessels. This includes the sale of STORIS (for foreign scrapping), ACUSHNET (for private use that will likely disturb encapsulated PCBs through fanciful and disrespectful modification) or the other ships used as museums, all without the strict hazardous materials guidelines outlined as in the U.S. Navy agreements.

(Originally posted April 7, 2014)
 

STORIS not the first Queen to be dishonored: CGC ACUSHNET pt. 1

USCGC ACUSHNET (WMEC-167)

STORIS and ACUSHNET share the dock at Kodiak in 2005.

The sale of STORIS is not the first time that the Coast Guard and GSA teamed up to break the law. In a similar breach of established legal requirements, rather than seek a museum recipient for USCGC ACUSHNET (WMEC-167), Coast Guard turned the ship over to GSA, which sold her within a week of her March 2011 decommissioning. GSA obviously has no concern for historic preservation, despite the meaningless rhetoric on their Web site about the agency’s dedication to preservation of our country’s historic properties. (In the case of STORIS, it’s not like the $70,100 they brought in for the sale was any substantial income with the way our government burns through money. On the other hand, the economic and cultural loss for the Great Lakes region and NW Ohio is inestimable.)

Built during WWII as the Diver-Class salvage ship USS SHACKLE (ARS-9), ACUSHNET served at Iwo Jima and Okinawa. She earned the American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (3), World War II Victory Medal, Navy Occupation Service Medal (with Asia clasp) and three battle stars before being transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard in 1946. On Feb. 18, 1952, she was instrumental in the daring rescue of 18 crewmen from the stricken tanker FORT MERCER. This was the same storm where coxswain Bernie Webber of motor lifeboat CG-36500, from Station Chatham, MA, and his crew of three rescued the crew of the stricken tanker PENDLETON, broken in half during the horrific storm off the coast of Massachusetts. ACUSHNET also participated in the Mariel Boatlift in 1980. For her Coast Guard career, ACUSHNET earned two Coast Guard Unit Commendations, five Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendations w/ Operational Distinguishing Device, 11 Coast Guard “E” Ribbons and two CG Unit Commendations.

More here: http://www.sitnews.us/Kiffer/Acushnet/082306_acushnet_history.html

As indicated by attorney Denise Rucker Krepp's statement posted below on March 12, the scrapping of STORIS in Mexico violated section 3502 of the 2009 Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act which requires all U.S. government vessels to be scrapped at U.S. metal recycling facilities. The GSA sale also violates 40 U.S.C. 548, which mandates that MARAD be responsible for disposing of vessels greater than 1,500 gross tons. Then there are the issues of the export of a U.S.-flagged vessel that almost certainly contained regulated levels of Polychlorinated Biphenyls. This would have violated the export regulations of the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA).

During the pre-decommissioning process, ACUSHNET and STORIS were surveyed together for environmental contamination and historic significance. Both ships were identified as eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The Coast Guard was required by federal law to complete the nomination paperwork for the ships but the CG did not. There was no statutory deadline, so CG never nominated the ships. It wasn’t until I wrote the nomination for STORIS in 2012 that she was officially listed as nationally significant on the National Register. ACUSHNET was never nominated, though she should have been. In my professional estimation, ACUSHNET easily meets the criteria to be designated as nationally significant on her own merits as well as her existence as last of the 18 very successful and accomplished Diver-Class vessels. When STORIS was decommissioned, ACUSHNET assumed the title of “Queen of the Fleet.”

Decommissioned on March 11, 2011, ACUSHNET was sold by GSA March 17 for the inflated price of just over $600,000 to a private buyer (with lofty dreams financed with borrowed money). She was subsequently moved under her own power from Ketchikan to Seattle. The buyer claimed to want the ship for use as a dive support ship in Belize or off the Great Barrier reef, depending on what account you read. However, under the terms of the purchase agreement, he received the ship in “as-is” condition with emptied fuel tanks and missing navigation electronics. He didn’t have money to fully fuel the ship and properly equip her for such a long voyage. Other, more recent reports indicate he wants to turn her into a “superyacht” with a hot tub in which charter clients “can sip champagne with supermodels” (seriously?) or as an anti-piracy vessel equipped with super-fancy, non-lethal deterrents.

No matter what his plans, his proposals would ultimately desecrate the ship by compromising ACUSHNET’s physical and historic integrity. While he touts ACUSHNET as “the most historic (or blessed, depending on the version) ship in the U.S.,” his plans – should he find a financial backer – would ultimately destroy what makes the ship historic. Either that, or any pending litigation for failure to pay dockage, towing or other bills would put her fate in the hands of the courts or debt-collectors who could care less about her historic status. She could very well end up like STORIS, as scrap.

There was an unsuccessful attempt last fall to sell ACUSHNET on Ebay for a “buy-it-now” price of $10 million. The eBay posting is rather revealing of the situation she is in: 

http://www.ebay.com/itm/EX-USCGC-ACUSHNET-USS-SHACKLE-THE-MOST-BLESSED-SHIP-ON-EARTH-/221298791577


The eBay link expired, so the grabs of the listings are here:  

2013 listing -


May 2014 listing

ACUSHNET is currently for sale for that same $10 million (or best offer, serious inquiries only…) through a ship broker in Cordova, AK.  http://crboats-permits.com/ship0001.html

At last report, ACUSHNET is located somewhere in the Seattle/Bremerton/Anacortes area in Washington State, being shuffled from dock to dock in an apparent attempt to avoid dockage fees. At one point, during a late night attempt to move the ship with a skeleton crew, the owner got ACUSHNET in trouble during a heavy storm. The anchors were dropped but the rodes were fouled. The Coast Guard was called in to assist and the chains were cut from the windlasses, leaving her anchors on the bottom. Rumor has it that, because she currently has no anchors, she is not allowed to get underway by the Coast Guard as no anchors = a safety issue. The buyer’s Ebay site has had several SCBA tanks for auction, so it appears that the ship’s equipment may be in the process of being sold off in a piecemeal fashion.

STORIS is gone and ACUSHNET is threatened because of government corruption and incompetence. It would be nice to save ACU, but not at the ridiculous price of $10 million. This is another outrageous situation that should never been allowed to happen by the government and another blow to the preservation and appreciation of Coast Guard, Navy and U.S. maritime heritage.

In short, the Coast Guard and GSA have previous experience in FUBAR policy prior to the tragedy and situation with STORIS in 2013 demonstrated by how they handled ACUSHNET in 2011. MARAD should have handled ACUSHNET, as her displacement exceeds 1,900 tons. Only today, it was brought up that the former USNS COMET is available for museum donation through MARAD, so that agency clearly handles ships eligible for National Register listing, making them available for museum status. How STORIS and ACUSHNET slipped through and were allowed to go through the corrupt GSA system defies explanation.

(Originally posted April 7, 2014)

Group sues EPA over charges assessed for FOIA request


A suit was filed over a $2,000 charge for records? EPA wanted to charge $850 for the STORIS records until they supposedly missed an internal deadline. That's nothing compared to the $10,266 GSA tried to charge me for the records related to STORIS until that just changed the other day.

Washington Times -Conservative group sues EPA over open records requests

(Originally posted April 5, 2014)

Luanch day +72 years: STORIS remembered



Laid down in the yard of the Toledo Shipbuilding Company on 14 July 1941, on 4 April 1942 STORIS was side-launched into the basin at the shipyard. By 30 September 1942, she had been outfitted, manned and had completed many of her builder’s trials that allowed her to be proudly commissioned into the U.S. Coast Guard.

From there, she left the lakes and went off to war and a spectacular career that spanned 64 years and 5 months. STORIS became famous on both coasts for her exploits in the North Atlantic, Northern Pacific and the Arctic.

Almost a year ago, we were proudly announcing plans to return STORIS to Toledo for use as an active museum ship and training vessel for the U.S. Sea Cadets. Today we mourn her illegal sale, export and scrapping thanks to bureaucratic ignorance, arrogance and incompetence, as well as the sleazy greed of a so-called “metals recycling” company of dubious origins and existence.

STORIS, we won’t forget you, or the people responsible for this travesty.


(Originally posted April 4, 2014)

GSA agrees to waive $10,266 bill, will release info in June '14

I received a message from Travis Lewis, FOIA representative of GSA, this afternoon. He acknowledged that GSA had discussed my appeal with OGIS and that various aspects of the situation were reviewed. He also indicated that since GSA had received a similar request from a member of the media that the request would be classified as a press request and therefore I would receive the requested materials with the $10,266 in fees waived. The deadline for GSA to assemble the materials is June 18. That will be just nine days short of one year that STORIS was sold at auction.
(Originally posted April 2, 2014)

Withheld information from EPA FOIA appealed


An appeal was submitted related to the EPA withholding information related to STORIS in their FOIA release in early March.

The appeal is here: http://goo.gl/AUT3ik

The Great Alaskan Earthquake of 1964


Fifty years ago today, the Great Alaskan Earthquake on the evening of March 27, 1964 – Good Friday – would see Storis rise to the challenge of providing humanitarian and military support that would help a wide area of Alaska stricken by the quake and resulting tsunamis. Storis was on patrol in the Bering Sea when word came over the military radio that a major earthquake had occurred at 5:36 p.m. local time, leaving devastation across wide areas of Alaska. Massive tsunamis caused by that followed the original seismic event caused additional catastrophic damage. Storis was directed to return to her home port of Kodiak, which had been severely damaged. Around mid-day on Easter Sunday, Storis entered Womens Bay and found her home port difficult to recognize with the resultant damage. Storis offloaded her helicopter and docked to refuel. Crewmen were briefly allowed to meet with family members that had been able to make it to the dock, but with communication and road networks largely cut off, many did not know how their families living outside the Coast Guard base had fared through the quake. After approximately ninety minutes, Storis cast off to head for Homer, Alaska.

Other cutters were dispatched around Alaskan waters for the relief mission, known as “Operation Helping Hand.” These included the high-endurance cutter USCGC Minnetonka (WHEC-67) and buoy tender USCGC Sorrel (WAGL-296) to Prince William Sound, buoy tender USCGC Bittersweet (WAGL-389) to Seward and buoy tender USCGC Sedge (WAGL-402) to Valdez. At Homer Spit, Storis met a group of small vessels, tugboats and barges waiting for her to break a track through Cook Inlet to reach the devastated city of Anchorage. Storis escorted unloaded relief vessels from Anchorage on the return trip to open water. She stayed on station for three weeks escorting convoys to and from Anchorage before returning to Kodiak April 20. In the years following the earthquake, Storis assisted the University of Alaska in the construction of experimental seismological stations in the Aleutian Islands. In August 1969, Storis would participate in another scientific study between the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey and the U.S. Geological Survey, east of Point Barrow in the Beaufort Sea.

The earthquake and ensuing tsunami killed 128 people, 113 by tsunami action in Alaska and the coast of the Pacific Northwest. The quake registered 9.2 on the Richter scale, the second most powerful earthquake ever recorded, and caused approximately $311 million in damage.

KMXT Radio in Kodiak is blogging about the commemoration of the earthquake at http://kmxtnews2012.wordpress.com/

The posted photo shows damage to Kodiak in the aftermath of the tsunami. http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/bigs/cgs02076.jpg


(Originally posted March 27, 2014)

MARAD releases first collection of FOIA information


On March 11, I received a packet of information from the U.S. Maritime Administration regarding my Freedom of Information Request for STORIS.

The release letter is here: http://goo.gl/7Gm3Rs


The information released is here: http://goo.gl/l7HDQv

The documentation includes photos of the ship being prepared for the tow by the AN TILLETT of Pacific Tug and the SILIA of Greger Pacific Marine. TILLETT was the tug responsible for the tow to Ensenada.

The MARAD paperwork is not overly comprehensive, but it validates the position that STORIS was in excellent physical condition. It shows that on at least one occasion, the issue of PCBs on board the ship was raised by William Cahill, ship operations manager at MARAD. There is no direct answer, just a reference elsewhere to the defective Coast Guard documentation claiming that the ship was PCB-free.

There is also a comment regarding the ship’s impending departure that reflects the drawn-out nature of the ship’s stay in the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet well beyond the July 12 deadline for removal of the ship: “I guess they mean it this time.”

The buyer, Mark Jurisich and John Bryan of U.S. Metals Recycling, did not remove the ship or provide the necessary insurance for the removal of the ship by July 12 as required by the purchase agreement with the General Services Administration. Instead, GSA allowed Jurisich to spend the bulk of July and August trying to extort between $250,000 and $365,000 from STORIS Museum and The Last Patrol for the ship for which he and his partner paid $70,100. I was told by a reliable source that MARAD had given Jurisich until Sept. 22 to move the ship and he did not. The Coast Guard rent for the SBRF moorings ran out at the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, yet STORIS was still there and would remain there for another 25 days.

Conspicuously absent from the information provided are any records of  communication with Jurisich and U.S. Metals regarding the ship, information that I had requested.

The government continues to hide behind Exemption 5 of the Federal FOIA laws. Exemption 5 of the federal Freedom of Information Act covers multiple privileges, including those that protect an attorney’s work product, attorney-client communications, and the “deliberative process.” According to MARAD’s letter,  “the deliberative process privilege protects the integrity of the deliberative or decision-making processes within the
agency by exempting from mandatory disclosure opinions, conclusions and recommendations, included within inter-agency or intra-agency memoranda or letters. The release of this internal information would discourage the expression of candid opinions and inhibit the free and frank exchange of information among agency personnel.
Several sections of communication are subsequently redacted using Exemption 5 as the basis.”

It’s highly likely that key information about how these agencies were going to handle the situation with STORIS and how officials were going to cover themselves for wrongdoing or otherwise bungling the situation with the ship is being hidden using this aspect of FOIA exemption. I will be appealing the withholding of this information, especially since there really should be no secret aspects of STORIS’ situation. It’s not like a matter of national security.

MARAD has stated in messages to me and to others that it was not responsible for STORIS as the ship belonged to the U.S. Coast Guard and that MARAD was simply acting as a custodial host for the ship at the Suisun Bay moorings. However, they are complicit in this situation of the ship’s export knowing full well the aspects of the excessing and export that were improper and illegal. Instead, it is the typical game of government passing the buck. A large part of what MARAD is responsible for involves the proper disposal of vessels following applicable federal laws. There is also currently a memorandum of agreement in place between MARAD and the U.S. Coast Guard for the disposal of the former 180-foot Seagoing Buoy Tenders USCGC PLANETREE (WLB-307) and the USCGC IRIS (WLB-395). While the ships may have had different maintenance regimens over the years, both of the WLBs are of similar construction and materials as STORIS. The 180s are classified as “too dirty” with toxic materials such as PCBs to be sold for anything other than domestic scrapping, yet STORIS was allowed to be exported to Mexico, considered a “lesser-developed country” in regard to shipbreaking capability.

It was also pointed out in the March 12 posting related to the statement issued by Denise Rucker Krepp, former chief counsel for MARAD, that scrapping STORIS in Mexico violates Section 3502 of the 2009 Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act which requires all U.S. government vessels to be scrapped at U.S. metal recycling facilities. The GSA sale of STORIS also violated 40 U.S.C. 548 which mandates that MARAD be responsible for disposing of vessels greater than 1,500 gross tons. STORIS displaced over 1,700 tons. It was MARAD that should have handled the ship’s excessing, NOT GSA.

MARAD officials knew that what was transpiring with STORIS was wrong and they did NOTHING.

The circumstances of the ship’s departure to Mexico are very suspect, particularly since the ship was allowed to leave without having the mandatory hull cleaning for invasive species and the tow departed late on a Friday evening to get a two-day head start for Mexico before anyone could intervene early the next week if there was any attempt to do so.

I have shared the information with people who are more familiar with the processes and the people involved and I hope to hear back with their expert analysis. I will share that when I get feedback.


(Originally posted March 26, 2014)

GSA agrees to review steep fee after OGIS review


We have received a response from the Office of Government Information Services regarding the Freedom of Information Act request from GSA. Apparently GSA has agreed to review the request and the associated fees totaling $10,266. What the agency does remains to be seen, but their assertion that there is no public interest served in releasing the information is indefensible, particularly since all of the actions covered in the documentation took place outside the public arena and are essentially secret. I will be sending an inquiry to various GSA officials to see what they intend to do about this, hold the line with a constructive denial of the FOIA through punitive fees or release the information through the fee waiver, which I still firmly believe is justified based on the circumstances of this situation.

http://goo.gl/lsoUjU


(Originally posted March 26, 2014)

EXXON VALDEZ: 25 years later


Twenty-five years ago today, the supertanker EXXON VALDEZ ran aground on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound. STORIS served as on-scene commander among a fleet of CG assets that responded to the disaster. Read about the CG response to the disaster here.

(Originally posted March 24, 2014)

ALASKAN MONARCH rescue remembered



In a daring rescue attempt that has been captured on video and rebroadcast many times in the years that have followed, STORIS responded to a distress call on March 15, 1990 from the grounded FV ALASKAN MONARCH on St. Paul Island. The fishin...g vessel had been attempting to enter St. Paul harbor when it was trapped in ice which threatened to drive the vessel ashore. STORIS arrived on scene and her crew brought the cutter in as close as possible to the rocky coast, setting her starboard anchor to help hold her off the rocks and swing her bow into the seas. Under the strain, the chain soon parted. Despite the potential danger the cutter herself was exposed to, in pitching seas and heavy wind and ice, STORIS crewmembers attempted multiple times to fire a towing line to the disabled fishing vessel. The fishermen were unable to secure the line. The situation deteriorated with the growing seas and ice slamming into the grounded vessel. The freezing water and ice swept across the deck of the hapless fishing vessel, threatening to capsize the ship. When grounding was imminent, a land-based Coast Guard Sea King helicopter from Air Station Kodiak safely removed four crewmen. The captain and chief engineer of the fishing vessel were swept overboard by the seas but were retrieved from the water by a rescue swimmer deployed from the helicopter. ALASKAN MONARCH was subsequently destroyed in place by the seas.

(Originally posted March 20, 2014)

Sunshine Week pomotes open, transparent government




It's Sunshine Week - http://www.sunshineweek.org/

We want and deserve answers from the Federal Government about the circumstances that led to the sale and destruction of the USCGC STORIS. The efforts behind this page and the associated Web... site are aimed at doing just that. We need your support as well to make this happen. The government is taking the position that there is no public benefit to releasing the information when we know otherwise. If you support STORIS and open government, like this post and share this Facebook page with your shipmates, family, friends and colleagues. We are working to get the information about the ship to present to the general public and especially STORIS veterans and supporters. The more support we have here and ready to offer criticism to the government for its actions related to the ship's disposal and the refusal to provide information, the better.

(Originally posted March 19, 2014)

Former MARAD Chief Counsel addresses illegal export of STORIS


Denise Rucker Krepp, former Chief Counsel for the US Maritime Administration, currently advocates on behalf of the U.S. domestic ship recycling industry. She delivered a statement at the Coast Guard Shipping Coordinating Committee Meeting today in preparation for the April 2014 Maritime Environment Protection Committee Meeting.

The statement specifically addresses the circumstances of STORIS, her sale, and the hurdles and huge fees that have been thrown up in my way as I try to get answers from the government related to this crime against history. The matter of the government withholding information from other parties is also discussed.

Some very interesting points were brought out and I encourage everyone to read the statement.

Two major points were brought to light: Scrapping STORIS in Mexico violates Section 3502 of the 2009 Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act which requires all U.S. government vessels to be scrapped at U.S. metal recycling facilities. The GSA sale of STORIS also violates 40 U.S.C. 548 which mandates that MARAD be responsible for disposing of vessels greater than 1500 gross tons. STORIS displaced over 1,700 tons. While Ms. Krepp states that STORIS should have been auctioned to domestic scrappers, the nonprofit museum groups would/should have been able to secure custody of the ship if the government had followed proper protocol for preservation of historic ships through the public benefit provisions in federal law.

http://www.maritimeprofessional.com/News/365434.aspx


(Originally posted March 12, 2014)

Read and share this information...For STORIS



We are still working on securing information from the government related to the actions that led to the destruction of USCGC STORIS. Some information has been secured from the EPA while officials from GSA, USCG and MARAD continue to drag this out.

It's a lot of information to read through, but we hope that you will make the time to go through the information released by EPA. The links and background information were posted below on March 8. The update for other Freedom of Information Act requests is also important material to review.

Questions are welcomed. We also would appreciate it if you share this page and the links with your shipmates, family, friends and colleagues. The more people we have involved in the chain of information, the stronger our argument is for the government to release the information.

GSA demands over $10,000 for FOIA request



 
 
The General Services Administration is attempting to put one over again on those of us who care about the USCGC STORIS. I have received notification from GSA that my Freedom of Information Act request related to materials for the excessing and sale of the ship is $10,266.

Yes, $10,266 to receive documentation as we look to find some kind of an explanation for the who, how and why the nationally significant USCGC STORIS was allowed to be destroyed by the U.S. Federal Governm...ent, represented by the GSA and US Coast Guard with large supporting roles played by the EPA and Maritime Administration.

The letter for the payment request is here: http://goo.gl/1zMaVn

GSA claims it took 11 hours to look for the materials at $29 an hour which comes out to $319. They then claim it took an additional 323 hours at $29/hr to review the materials for a cost of $9,367. That means they are claiming that someone spent just over eight full 40-hour work weeks -- two months -- reviewing materials at $29 an hour. Then it’s another $580 in duplication costs, with the first 100 pages free.

Apparently GSA doesn’t know how to fill out its own paperwork either, as the charges aren’t listed and computed in the correct locations on the sheet and there is no description of what the duplication costs involved.

The worksheet is here: http://goo.gl/2z9yM2

I’ve been given 20 days by GSA to send them a check or pay by credit card or the request will be cancelled.

An appeal is underway with the Office of Government Information Services as GSA has issued a final denial of the request for the waiver of fees. There was nothing wrong with the request and it is my position that GSA is attempting to deter me from pursuing the materials by promising huge associated costs to secure the information.

Read about OGIS here:
https://ogis.archives.gov/?p=%2F%2Fogis%2Findex.html

I have contacted Carrie McGuire, the representative from OGIS who is handling the STORIS FOIA through GSA. Ms. McGuire has indicated that she has exchanged voicemail messages with the liaison at GSA but has not been successful in actually talking to someone at GSA. She said that she would request that GSA suspend the 20-day deadline while the matter is under review. How GSA responds remains to be seen.

It is my position as described in the original FOIA request that we are owed the information as all of the decision-making process associated with STORIS was essentially handled by GSA in secrecy. The associated decisions led to STORIS’ destruction and we are owed an explanation.

I will continue the effort to secure the information through the fee waiver. If payment is required, no funds from the STORIS Museum will be used for this purpose.

As far as the other FOIA requests:

MARAD: An email was sent to MARAD FOIA HQ Wednesday, March 5. I spoke with MARAD FOIA representative Andrew Larimore on Feb. 4 and he told me at that point he was compiling materials for STORIS and would be completed within a week or two. I have heard nothing since, hence the message sent March 5. Attempts to contact MARAD by phone were not successful as no one answered the phone and the voice mail system foiled my attempts to find a mailbox for Larimore.

US Coast Guard: As indicated earlier, the Coast Guard has sent a letter indicating that a search of the Office of Cutter Forces was conducted in December 2013 and they have no logs or maintenance records related to STORIS. Other requested materials have yet to be addressed.

It is my understanding that logbooks -- particularly deck logs -- as a matter of record go to various branches of the National Archives. Older logs for STORIS are located in Washington, DC. Newer logs are in Anchorage.

It is disingenuous of the Coast Guard to say they didn’t find logbooks at the Office of Cutter Forces since they wouldn’t be kept there. STORIS has also been decommissioned for seven years. But where are the maintenance records for things like yard availabilities and abatement projects? I’d like to hear from anyone who may know where these records are kept/sent.

Though STORIS is gone, we will keep working on this.

I believe we all want to know

1. who is responsible
2. how this was allowed to happen and
3. most important of all, WHY?
 
(Originally posted March 8, 2014)

EPA finally releases info for Nov. 4 FOIA request



The Environmental Protection Agency has largely complied (finally) with my November 4 Freedom of Information Act Request. They have released or otherwise made available 139 documents related to USCGC STORIS and her export.

There is some interesting insight into the operation of the agency and the response and subsequent public position of the EPA officials as they were notified of the ship’s export and the potential that the ship contained PCBs above regulated levels. The c...oncern was the potential violation of the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. There are relevant responses from GSA and the US Coast Guard related to the concerns raised as the ship was headed to Mexico. Backup information related to the ship sent to EPA is also included.

The EPA’s site for the STORIS materials is here: http://goo.gl/i3xVZ4

The redacted/withheld materials lists that were to be sent to me Wednesday afternoon March 5 were received later in the day after I pointed out that I did not receive them. The process of reviewing the lists to determine how I will respond for the withheld materials is currently underway. I suspect that the withheld correspondence would contain relevant and important information.

The lists are at the following links:

Withheld information: http://goo.gl/oprf1a

Redacted documents: http://goo.gl/ENnS2v

While there is a lot to read, I have gone through the materials for a first review and have noted some key points to address and consider. A more thorough analysis and further discussion with other interested parties will likely reveal more points to think about, particularly in regard to the actions of the agencies involved and the deficiencies of the paperwork used to designate STORIS as “PCB-free” when there is still a high likelihood that she was not. This also does not yet address the situation with GSA that allowed the ship to be sold out from under STORIS Museum and The Last Patrol.

Document CRSGSAtoR9Email8 – There is a reference to Mark Jurisich of US Metals Recovery asking for MARAD radiation reports because Mexican Authorities were holding the ship based on the raid conducted in November over concerns that the ship was contaminated with radiation. This and associated documentation incorrectly speculates or otherwise states that I and/or members of the STORIS Museum had started the radioactivity rumor with the Mexican authorities. I categorically deny that we were responsible for the issue with radioactivity. I corresponded with the Mexicans regarding PCBs and those documents are included in the released information. That’s it.

Our concerns in this situation have always been the circumstances of how STORIS, as a nationally significant historic ship listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was excessed and sold out from under the nonprofits who hoped to preserve her. This, and the lack of cooperation from the government with the nonprofits even as the buyer flaunted deadlines associated with the purchase agreement with the apparent blessing of the government. Then you have all of the various issues related to the aspects of the sale and export as it related to probable PCB content on board the ship.

Document MaierEmail24 - Message from EPA enforcement officer Doug McDaniel stating that EPA had no case or interest for enforcement action with STORIS because Jurisich had documentation from the USCG indicating the ship was PCB-free. Whether or not STORIS was truly clean apparently became irrelevant to EPA because of the Coast Guard paperwork. It didn’t matter whether the documentation was truthful and complete or totally deficient. And the correspondence shows that even EPA had questions about certain phrasing in the Coast Guard reports that required clarification by CG officials.

This is particularly important because the EPA’s position is that it was US Metal Recovery’s responsibility to ensure the ship was PCB-compliant for the export to Mexico and this message apparently absolves the buyer of any responsibility, instead shifting the issue of whether or not STORIS was truly PCB-free to the US Coast Guard.

It’s great that EPA would allow pollution to occur just because of flawed paperwork rather than actually perform a physical inspection themselves. Had EPA inspector Christopher Rollins actually looked at the ship when I called prior to her departure, he would have seen for himself the materials on board the ship that were cause for concern and actually caused other potential scrap bidders to walk away from purchasing the ship. EPA also had the chance to stop the ship before she left the country as they were contacted on Oct. 28 when the ship was still in U.S. waters north of L.A. Instead, they allowed the ship to proceed to Mexico.

This all brings into serious question the Coast Guard’s procedures in testing ships for PCBs prior to their disposal. This would affect at least eight other retired cutters that are currently in the U.S. in civilian hands, all of which are WWII vintage or earlier. Several of these vessels are utilized as museums. The message indicates that it would be an EPA-wide issue rather than a Region IX (San Francisco) issue to explain to USCG the importance of proper testing in the future. (Brent Maier is a Congressional liaison for EPA’s Region IX.)

Document MaierEmail32- Correspondence with the San Diego EPA office and discussion about notifying American personnel at the US Embassy in Mexico, but not Mexican authorities.

Document MaierEmail35- Summary of conference call with Bob King of Senator Mark Begich’s office and EPA’s position they have a limited role in maritime issues. While I think Bob King was genuinely concerned about STORIS, speaking for myself, I am not otherwise impressed with Senator Begich’s role in this situation with the ship or his public assertion that he was going to investigate the whole process of STORIS’ sale and export. His comments sounded good on the radio report, but I think the matter was dropped very quickly.

Among the other documentation is the correspondence I had with the Mexican authorities and discussion about how EPA was going to handle inquiries from the press and Congress, such as Begich and Speaker John Boehner, as well as inquiries from other concerned parties such as the Basel Action Network, an environmental group that monitors shipbreaking activities. There is also heavy denial from the Coast Guard that STORIS would have had any wiring on board that contained PCBs, as they claimed that only certain cutters built in the 1960s and 1970s had PCB-containing “wet cables” in their electrical systems. They claim that since STORIS was built in the 1940s, there would not have been PCBs in her wiring.

While all of this information is helpful in many respects, there are still a whole range of unanswered questions that can only be addressed with ALL of the documentation that was requested from the other federal agencies involved with the excessing, sale and export of the ship. This information from EPA is also only the first part of the information needed from that agency.

A second FOIA request sent to EPA related to other records and correspondence in the days following the period covered by this request is open and active, having just been recently filed. That request will hopefully reveal whether or no there was any correspondence with the Mexican officials, what kind of results – if any – the Mexicans supplied to the U.S. regarding what they found in testing the ship, and what other actions EPA and government officials took in relation to the ship. This includes the various politicians that we contacted for help in the days following the export.

I am currently working on an appeal for EPA’s denial to waive the associated fees for the second request. Their actions in denying the request for that FOIA are particularly questionable in light of the information just released and their claim that I did not express any intent to share the requested information with the general public when the request made it clear that the information would be made available publicly. This page and its companion Web site, along with the associated interpretation should make it clear that I intend to share this information with as many people as possible. The materials from EPA are the only documents received so far from the four FOIA requests I made on November 4. The status of the other requests will be outlined in the next post.

Your review of and comment on this information is greatly appreciated.
(Originally posted March 8, 2014)

EPA finally releases info...sort of


Well, 121 days after I made the original request to the US Environmental Protection Agency, I received an email just after noon today from EPA HQ related to the requested materials. The letter indicates that there are materials that are being withheld under FOIA exemptions in US Federal Law and other materials are redacted. The rest of the materials are to be available for download on a federal FOIA site.

Problem is, the lists of withheld and redacted materials were not enclosed or attached as the letter indicates. There are also no materials on the Federal FOIA site.

Here is the letter: http://goo.gl/s5DUqb

And my response to this continuing government circus: http://goo.gl/rsb3St
(Originally posted March 5, 2014)

Silence from US Government re: STORIS is deafening


Four months. It will be four months on Tuesday, March 4 that the Freedom of Information Act requests for the documentation related to the excessing, sale, and export of STORIS were made to GSA, MARAD, EPA and the US Coast Guard and not one document has yet to be turned over. The silence from the federal government is deafening. Instead, we need to make some noise and be heard. For STORIS.

(Originally posted March 3, 2014)

CGC ACUSHNET (WMEC-167) up for sale for $10 million


Another wholly inappropriate situation created by the Coast Guard and GSA. CGC ACUSHNET, the Queen of the Fleet after STORIS, was sold at auction following her 2011 decommissioning instead of being made available for museum use. ACUSHNET is the last of the US Navy Diver Class vessels from WWII and was determined eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places during her decommissioning surveys. The Coast Guard never completed the paperwork, just like they ignored STORIS.

She served at Iwo Jima and Okinawa for the Navy and was part of the tremendous dual rescues of the SS PENDLETON/SS FORT MERCER in February 1952 by CG 36500 and others. She also was a key player in the Mariel Boatlift of 1980.

The circumstances of ACUSHNET's sale are extremely shaky, whether it's the "PCB-free" status of the ship as presented by the government or the motivation of the buyer and his delusional plans. It's easy to dream when you're spending other people's money. ACUSHNET is in the hands of someone who is not in a position to respect her history and provide appropriate stewardship. In one breath, he publicizes the ship as "the most historic ship in America." In the next, he talks of all the upgrades he wants to do -- with other people's money, of course -- which will destroy the very physical and historic integrity that make ACUSHNET significant.

ACUSHNET is currently for sale at a ridiculous price of $10 million. "Reasonable offers will be considered."

Another joke propagated by our government, only it's not funny at all. 


Link to ACUSHNET sale page




More about ACUSHNET in a later post.

HAER Photo by John T. "Jet" Lowe


(Originally posted Feb. 28, 2014)