Electric Co-op meeting draws anti-herbicide crowd

Tuesday, June 2, 2009
More than 100 persons opposed to Carroll Electric Cooperative's plans to spray herbicides along its rights of way showed up for the board of directors meeting in Berryville Thursday morning. The crowd overflowed into the lobby of the cooperative's building in Berryville and the board conducted a less-than-20-minute meeting then adjourned without addressing the herbicide issue, but introduced new board member Kristy Noble, elected unopposed with 9,026 votes from cooperative members. E. Alan Long/Carroll County News

Crowd isn't allowed to address board during short annual meeting

By Becky Gillette

BERRYVILLE -- About 150 people who came out to the Carroll Electric Cooperative Corp. (CECC) annual meeting May 28 to request the utility reduce or eliminate herbicide spraying on rights-of-way (ROW) found their pleas didn't fall on deaf ears. They fell on no ears at all.

The members weren't acknowledged by the President/CEO Rob Boaz or the board of directors or allowed to speak during the annual meeting. Members were left talking to each other instead of the people holding the reins of power.

"Many were surprised when the annual members meeting was abruptly adjourned and the board exited the room for its closed-door session," said Shawn Porter of Newton County, a representative for the group. "'Carroll Electric is here for its members' does not hold much water when the board and management failed to publicly acknowledge the presence of our group, or our reasons for attending."

CECC's annual meeting normally attracts as few as 10 members. But this year residents from several counties showed up in an attempt to voice concerns about the health effects of herbicide spraying.

While CECC did allow Porter to address the closed board meeting that followed the annual meeting, only two other members were allowed into the closed meeting. The press and other members of the cooperative were not allowed in to hear the discussion.

CECC says it is too late to do anything about herbicide spraying in 2009 because contracts are already in place.

"Our spraying program fits perfectly with our mission to provide safe, reliable, and affordable power," said Nancy Plagge, CECC director of corporate communications. "We have been reviewed by various state and federal entities and been found in compliance with our use and application. However, we understand the sensitive nature of using herbicides and will be reviewing the new information presented today by concerned members of the Cooperative." (See accompanying story.)

Plagge said while it is technically possible to maintain ROWs without utilizing herbicides, the cost to members would be two to three times higher.

"Cost is definitely the number one concern we hear," Plagge said.

However, representatives of the group said they have been denied records regarding the cost comparisons.

"After over a year of asking, members have yet to be given an accurate and objective accounting of the costs for ROW maintenance using manual/mechanical, and herbicides," Porter said. "While the numbers would be interesting, such accounting is not likely to show the hidden costs to people and the environment from the adverse effects of the herbicides. What is the cost for our children growing up healthy?"

Porter told Plagge that to say in their press release that 'Cost is definitely the number one concern we hear' leads to questions about what the utility does hear, and who it hears it from.

"People are clearly more concerned about protecting our water, health, gardens, bees, animals, children, and environment, than they are about seeing an extra dollar or two added to their monthly bills," Porter said.

Electric's Rob Boaz: 'We understand our responsibility'

(Ed. note: What follows is a press release issued by Carroll Electric following the annual and regular board meetings.)

Berryville -- Carroll Electric's annual meeting of members was held last Thursday. A group was present to express their opposition to the Cooperative's right-of-way management practices involving the use of herbicides.

President/CEO Rob Boaz, addressed the members by reporting on activities over the past year. "We have had a tremendous response from members about the restoration efforts made during the recent ice storm. I just can't say enough about our people -- I could not be more proud." Permanent repairs are expected to take another two to three years to complete.

Boaz complimented the board for their wisdom in constructing a new office and community room in Huntsville. "Not only is the community room a great addition to Madison County, restoration efforts during the ice storm would be hard to imagine without the new warehouse and office space."

Boaz announced the results of the director election during the meeting. Cooperative members reelected Kristy Noble of Berryville, to represent District 4 members on the Cooperative's board of directors. Ms. Noble ran without opposition, receiving 9,026 votes. She is the president of St. John's Hospital -- Berryville.

Pending legislation is the biggest challenge facing the Cooperative. A version of the Waxman-Markey bill has been passed out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. If it becomes law, the price of electricity will be tied directly to a new market that trades carbon dioxide allowances. It is expected the price of electricity will double with a "cap and trade" system.

"The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas made significant investments years ago into three hydroelectric facilities. Now, the powers that be, say we can't count hydro as a renewable resource." Boaz went on to explain other forms of renewable energy are not fully developed or dependable as a firm source of power.

Boaz did not address the Cooperative's use of herbicides. According to Nancy Plagge, Director of Corporate Communications, "Our spraying program fits perfectly with our mission to provide safe, reliable, and affordable power. We have been reviewed by various state and federal entities and been found in compliance with our use and application. However, we understand the sensitive nature of using herbicides and will be reviewing the new information presented today by concerned members of the Cooperative." Plagge pointed out the condition of the Cooperative's easements have never been better.

"While keeping them this way is technically possible without utilizing herbicides, the cost to members would be two to three times higher. Cost is definitely the number one concern we hear."

Following the member meeting, the board of directors heard concerns directly from Shawn Porter, who represented members opposed to the use of herbicides. According to Board Chairman Charles Burdine, "The board listened carefully to their concerns. We are taking everything in before a final decision is made. Commitments are already in place for 2009 contracts, preventing significant changes this year. However, the concerns over the notification letter have been noted for months and will be incorporated into the next mailing. We understand our responsibility to all 68,000 members of the Cooperative and will do our best to fulfill it."

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  • Herbicides have not been fairly or accurately portrayed by opponents. The "Save The Bees" sign is particularly misguided. Herbicides are not harmful to bees. Bushhogging produces rights of ways overcrowded by hardwoods, while herbicides eliminate hardwoods and open the forest floor to more beneficial plants that encourage wildlife and are helpful to the bee population.

    -- Posted by Environmentalist Too on Thu, Jun 4, 2009, at 2:58 PM
  • I suggest the author of the comment dismissing the impact of herbicides on bees talk with some local people who raise bees. They will quickly tell you that herbicides will kill bees, or, cause them to become so disoriented they do not make it back to the hive. There are many accounts from several local bee owners who have lost entire colonies as a result of CE spraying. For a more detailed look at the impacts of herbicides on bees, go to


    and watch a locally produced video about this issue.

    -- Posted by greensinger on Fri, Jun 5, 2009, at 5:22 AM
  • We DO know that herbicides, pesticides, GMOS, EMFs and so on are harmful to the environment and to living organisms. Bee keepers all over the world have been experiencing unprecedented "colony collapses" of bees. No one knows exactly HOW bees are affected by the COMBINATION of herbicides, pesticides, GMOs, EMFs and so on, but obviously they ARE affected. The beekeepers who are going out of their way to protect their hives from such are having much more success with their hives. What people fail to realize is that if the bees all die, there will be very little pollinating of crops and therefore, very few crops! Does this sound like something we want to take risks with?

    Yet bees are only one part of this issue. Many people, not to mention children and animals are absolutely without question sickened by herbicides, and again, how the COMBINATION of herbicides being sprayed is affecting everyone and everything is unknown, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to conclude that the cumulative and combined effect is BAD!

    -- Posted by aquene on Tue, Jun 9, 2009, at 12:53 AM
  • Below is information on the herbicides and other chemicals of concern that are being used to control vegetation on CECC right-of-ways, copied from http://grassrootsozark.net/

    Herbicides and Adjuvants

    CECC workers and contractors apply a mixture that typically consists of three herbicides and two adjuvants, with the specific mixture determined by each district. Following is the currently available list of herbicides and adjuvants to be used, including some information about each:

    Accord XTR contains the active ingredient glyphosate, which is also the active ingredient in the herbicide, Roundup. Glyphosate is highly soluble, very resistant to degradation in water and moderately toxic to birds, fish, honeybees and earthworms. It is listed by PAN International as a highly hazardous pesticide.

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified 76 species that may be endangered by glyphosate use. This is especially important here in the Ozarks due to a variety of rare and endangered species, including amphibians. Out of concern for these issues as well as human health, European Union member states are warned that, when using glyphosate, they "must pay particular attention to the protection of the groundwater in vulnerable areas, in particular with respect to non-crop uses."

    According to EPA, short-term exposure to elevated levels of glyphosate may cause lung congestion and increased breathing rates and, in long-term exposure, kidney damage, reproductive effects. Glyphosate exposure has also been associated with Parkinson's disease. Increased adverse neurologic and neurobehavioral effects have been found in children of applicators of glyphosate, whose female partners also are at higher risk of spontaneous abortion. Some glyphosate-based formulations and metabolic products have been found to cause the death of human embryonic, placental, and umbilical cells in vitro even at low concentrations. The effects are not proportional to glyphosate concentrations but dependent on the nature of the adjuvants used in the formulation.

    Milestone VM contains the active ingredient aminopyralid. Aminopyralid is highly soluble and persistent in water and has high leachability and mobility. It is moderately toxic to fish, honeybees and earthworms. Aminopyralid is also included in PAN International's List of Highly Hazardous Pesticides.

    Recently aminopyralid was at the center of public and media attention in the United Kingdom. Gardeners discovered that using manure from animals that grazed on or were fed hay from aminopyralid-sprayed roadsides caused their garden crops to fail or develop abnormally. In fact, the University of Minnosota Extension Service describes this problem in their fact sheet, "Use Caution When Harvesting and Feeding Ditch Hay."

    Powerline contains the active ingredient imazapyr, which has been listed for withdrawal from the market in the European Union. It is highly soluble and moderately persistent in water. It is also moderately toxic to fish, honey bees and earthworms. Imazapyr's potential to leach to groundwater is high and surface runoff potential is high. If imazapyr leaches down below 18 inches (where microbial activity is limited) the chemical can be expected to persist for more than a year. EPA cautions that "jeopardy" will occur to terrestrial and aquatic plant species from the use of imazapyr-based herbicides.

    Tordon K has the active ingredient picloram. Picloram is a persistent herbicide that is highly leachable, very soluble in water and does not degrade readily in water. It is moderately toxic to birds, fish, honeybees and earthworms. It has also been identified as an endocrine disruptor and is listed in PAN International's List of Highly Hazardous Pesticides. EPA's evaluation of picloram states, "eventual contamination of groundwater is virtually certain in areas where residues persist in the overlying soil. Once in groundwater, the chemical is unlikely to degrade even over a period of several years."

    Surf Ax 100 is a surfactant that consists of nonylphenol ethoyxlate, glycols, free fatty acids and dimethylpolysiloxane. According to EPA, nonylphenol ethoxylates are "an example of a surfactant class that does not meet the definition of a safer surfactant." Nonylphenol ethoxylate breaks down in the environment into nonylphenol, which is, according to EPA, "toxic to aquatic life, causing reproductive effects in aquatic organisms." Nonylphenol is a known endocrine disruptor. Many large corporations have stopped using nonylphenol ethoxylate for this reason. For example, Unilever says, "We no longer use nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPEs). We stopped using them for environmental reasons, before they were linked to endocrine disruption."

    MistTrol is a "deposition-coverage and drift retardant" with a polyacrylamide polymer as the active ingredient. Polyacrylamide degrades in the environment, forming acrylamide, a known neurotoxin. Acrylamide is also classified by the IARC as a probable carcinogen. EPA describes the health effects of acrylamide as including "damage to central and peripheral nervous systems, weakness and ataxia in legs." According to Material Safety Data Sheets for acrylamide, it has harmful effects on aquatic organisms and should not be allowed to enter waters, waste water, or soil.

    Credit and gratitude to Pat Costner for gathering and assembling the above information on the herbicides and adjuvants.

    -- Posted by aquene on Tue, Jun 9, 2009, at 1:12 AM
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