Pollution Absolution

A company is dumping questionable materials into the ocean so that you can buy forgiveness in the form of carbon credits


Planktos CEO Russ George told me last week that the ship his company owns, the WeatherBird II, has been sitting at a dock in Florida waiting for the criticism storm to pass. The EPA recently sent George a letter telling him his dumping project may require special EPA permission. The EPA also submitted a report to the International Marine Organization, warning that Planktos' plans could cause environmental harm.

"This project, which involves a significant amount of iron in a large area of the ocean, should be evaluated carefully for potential environmental impacts, including potential impacts of any harmful algae blooms that are produced and potential impacts of changes to the marine system," EPA anti-ocean dumping regulator Elizabeth Kim told me last week in a statement. "The United States regulates ocean dumping of material transported from the United States, and ocean dumping by U.S.-flagged vessels; neither may occur without a permit issued by the EPA under the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act."

George told me that when he spoke with Kim, he interpreted her explanation of the EPA's legal authority as advice on how to evade U.S. environmental regulations.

"We're good businesspeople, and we'll make some decision. The EPA has suggested to us that if we're not under the flag of a U.S. vessel, we're not subject to U.S. regulations. So if we were to register under a vessel that wasn't in the U.S., we wouldn't be regulated by the EPA," George said, adding that a shipping broker is now working on his behalf to hire a non-U.S.-flagged vessel.

George is also seeking bids from iron ore suppliers from outside the United States, which would allow him to skirt rules requiring environmental permits for dumping U.S. material into the sea.

Hoffman told me marine biologists are also worried that Planktos may dump other contaminants along with its iron ore, a problem that's impossible to assess unless one knows where, exactly, the iron is coming from, and which possibly contaminated cargo hold it's going to be dumped out of. George refused to tell me the source of his ore, or which ship he'd use, explaining that this information would give possible competitors a leg up.

If plans to use foreign-flagged vessels and offshore iron ore don't work, George said, he'll get around environmental regulations another way.

"If it turns out we're going to have to go through a long EPA process, maybe we'll just shift and do it out of our Budapest office," George explained.


And so it came to pass that by evading environmental regulations and potentially upsetting the ecological balance of the ocean, Planktos promised to deliver others from their planet-killing sins.

Planktos begat guiltless Hummer-drivers.

"A large pick-up or SUV gets only 10-18 mpg and is responsible for 10 tons of CO2 emissions per year, which can be zeroed for $50," sayeth the retail shopping section of www.planktos.com.

For $100, Planktos absolved sinners from heating, cooling, lighting, watering lawns, and running hot water in a large house for a year.

And Planktos bestowed forgiveness upon event planners.

"Meetings, conferences, weddings, or classrooms, you can green them all. Just fill out the form below," sayeth www.planktos.com.

After all, the Holy See's apparent participation in Russ George's publicity stunt would lead us to believe that if Planktos can absolve the Vatican of its trespasses, it can certainly help forgive you and me.

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