On August 11th, the AP released a story that vindicates a lot of people who oppose the NBAF and the entire methodology used to justify it’s placement on the US mainland. For everyone else you should be very concerned. The DHS Undersecretary Jay Cohen  (a political appointee by George Bush nominated in June 2006), is disregarding his own government experts and making the placement choices for the proposed National Bio Agro Defense Facility himself. Don’t forget this is the administration that told us evolution and global warming doesn’t exist. Obliviously science is not a prioirty for them, even when it comes to a BSL4 Ag bio-containment facility and Foot and Mouth disease research.  

But the bigger picture here is in his lapse of judgement, Cohen has single handedly thwarted  the entire NEPA process in one stealth swoop.  Safety and environmental  considerations  concerning site location have been completely erased, no one can question that now. Anyone needing a legal strategy to stop the NBAF in their community just had it handed to them on a silver platter. Once again where you have politicizing of government decisions you have greed. North Carolina’s $1 offer for Umstead Research Farm supports that theory without a question of a doubt. For me there is no longer any question why the NCC-NBAF  consortium  didn’t make any of their documents publicly available. This issue alone would have put the entire NBAF bidding process front and center in the media at a time when the consortium wanted to keep it out and the view of community support high. 

“North Carolina’s overall offer was considered “an attractive site package,” according to the documents obtained by the AP and as reported by WRAL. Who in North Carolina offered the location for $1 is the real question? Are they are currently holding a public office?  If the Golden Leaf Foundation debacle is any indication of possibile public reaction, I believe  the responsible party’s maybe in for some s**t hitting the fan, sorta speak.

Why is Cohen was willing to disregard his own committee’s recommendation? According to the AP, one of the sites being considered Flora, Mississippi ranked much lower (14 out of 17) that other sites that were excluded from the selection process. What does Miss. have that other states don’t have?  Strong political ties with the Bush Administration for instance; Battelle Memorial Institute, a DHS contractor is part of Miss. consortium and Miss. Governor Haley Barbour is an old Bush family friend for starters. Rep. Bennie Thompson of Miss., met with DHS twice but denied those meetings to the AP. Clearly one could assume there have been some favors called in.  

Government experts originally expressed concerns that the proposed site in Flora, Miss., was far from existing biodefenseresearch programs and lacked ready access to workers already familiar withhighlycontagious animal and human diseases, such as foot-and-mouth virus, that could devastate the U.S. livestock industry. They assigned the site a score that ranked it 14th among 17 candidate sites in the United States.

But a senior Homeland Security official, Undersecretary Jay Cohen, overruled those concerns under the theory that skilled researchers would move to Mississippi if it were selected for the new lab, according to a July 2007 internal government memorandum, marked “sensitive information” and obtained by the AP. Cohen accepted the argument that, “When built, they come.”

So “if we build it they will come” is the mindset Cohen is using to select the site for the National Bio Agro Defense Facility. Then why not keep it on Plum Island? Right, well apparently Plum Island’s facility will cost over $700 million. Which leads me to ask, what is public safety going for these days? How is this facility going to make anyone safer when politicos rule the decision making process not NEPA or actual science?  I believe we can all agree on one aspect of this site selection and that is it needs to be revisited and re-evaluated before anymore tax dollars are wasted and the process goes any further.

The $1 Umstead Research Farm location was ranked #1 (94) by DHS and yet the site has many of the characteristics Cohen himself claims were weaknesses for other sites. For instance, Cohen states that one of the weaknesses for a rejected location Leavenworth Kansas was it’s proximity to a Federal Penitentiary.

Leavenworth, Kan., 92. Strengths: Close to existing research programs and a skilled work force, extensive community support. Weaknesses: Close to Leavenworth federal penitentiary, which could cause security problems.

The Butner  Federal Correctional Complex (FCC) which consists of three facilities and a hospital, is 3000 feet southwest of the proposed location. The site property line sits beside a Juvenile Justice Youth Development Center for juvenile offenders C.A. Dillon .

San Antonio, SW Foundation, 88. Strengths: Near relevant research programs and a skilled work force, community acceptance. Weaknesses: A primate house for an existing lab would have to be moved and a creek intersects the site. Water requirements would be costly.

San Antonio-Brooks City (formerly Brooks Air Force Base), 90. Strengths: Near research programs and a skilled work force, attractive site, community acceptance. Weaknesses: no adequate buffer to adjacent residential areas. Near a wetland.

The Umstead Research Farm (URF) site has 6932 linear feet of streams running through it. All feeding into the Knapp of the Reeds creek which in the Upper Neuse River Basin and empty’s into Raleigh’s drinking water source Falls Lake. The wastewater treatment facility, SGWASA’s operating permit is being restricted by the NC State Division of Water Quality and Falls Lake has been classified as impaired by previous effluent pollution and is closely montiored by the state of NC. Do I need to say anymore about the water, do you get the point?

  • University of Missouri at Columbia, 89. Strengths: Near major research programs, universities, federal laboratories and private industry with skilled workers. Weaknesses: Community opposition. Close to residential areas.
  • Tracy, Calif., near Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, 84. Strengths: Near strong research programs. Weaknesses: Research programs not focused on the proposed lab’s mission areas of agriculture, veterinary medicine and human health. Community opposition.
  • Rankin County, Miss., 81. Strengths: Strong community acceptance, attractive land package, a private company’s promise to recruit staff. Weaknesses: Day care center and homes nearby, causing potential issues of “environmental justice.”
  • Madison, Wis., 85. Strengths: Near strong research programs in agriculture, veterinary medicine and human health. Weaknesses: Strong community opposition. Highly unlikely the proposed site would have sewer service.

“Strong Community opposition”GNAT, Brad Miller (D-NC), Rep. Doug Berger, GOP Candidate Chuck Stires, Town of Butner, City of Creedmoor, Town of Stem, Granville County Commissioners and more here. As for “Potential issues of “environmental justice“, URF site has 17 state and federal Institutions within close proximity. Within the correctional institutions the majority of the populations are African american and the rest of the institutions consist of mentally and physically handicapped some severely handicapped. Do these populations mean anything in this scoring process?

Where are the politicians who represent these populations? David Price, Jim Crawford, Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr are selling NC’s safety to the highest bidder?  Brad Miller and Doug Berger says NO, what is your stance? Who is standing up for the severely handicapped, the African American community and mentally impaired patients all of whom are constituents? It is past time for answers? This decision is government at its worst because all the studies regarding the lab’s safety were completely and totally ignored, all in favor of congressional pork and a $1 farm.