Tue, 2015-03-03 13:37Sharon Kelly
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EPA's National Study into Fracking Narrowed as Key Goals Fall by Wayside Due to Industry Pressure

In 2010, when Congress tasked the EPA with launching a national study of the risks posed by hydraulic fracturing, environmentalists were cautiously optimistic.

“At least the EPA is paying attention,” Don Young, founder of Fort Worth Citizens Against Neighborhood Drilling Operations told the Christian Science Monitor in 2010. 

And for a while, there seemed to be strong signs that the EPA planned to conduct a rigorous investigation. At the outset, the agency's plans included investigations into public health impacts, air pollution, well failures, run-off, and a range of other harms associated with the shale drilling rush.

And into 2011, EPA withstood intense pressure from the shale gas industry and its supporters in Congress to sharply narrow the scope of their research, and in particular to focus exclusively on one part of the process, the actual frac job, rather than to look at the full range of impacts from shale oil and gas extraction.

But at the same time, the goals of the national study were drastically narrowed. Plans, for example, to model the hazards potentially posed by dumping radioactive fracking wastewater at sewage treatment plants — essentially flushing it down the drain and allowing it to enter rivers only partially treated, as was common in Pennsylvania at the time — were slashed from the study.

That industry pressure has continued in the years since, and over time, EPA has indeed dramatically lowered its ambitions and limited the scope of its research, leaving only a small fraction of the original study standing, based on a review by DeSmog of internal EPA documents and emails.

Mon, 2015-03-02 05:14Sharon Kelly
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Internal Documents Reveal Extensive Industry Influence Over EPA's National Fracking Study

In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched an ambitious and highly consequential study of the risks that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, poses to American drinking water supplies.

This is about using the best possible science to do what the American people expect the EPA to do – ensure that the health of their communities and families are protected,” Paul Anastas, Assistant Administrator for the agency's Office of Research and Development, said in 2011.

But the EPA's study has been largely shaped and re-shaped by the very industry it is supposed to investigate, as energy company officials were allowed to edit planning documents, insisted on vetting agency contractors, and demanded to review federal scientist's field notes, photographs and laboratory results prior to publication, according to a review by DeSmog of over 3,000 pages of previously undisclosed emails, confidential draft study plans and other internal documents obtained through open records requests.

Company officials imposed demands so infeasible that the EPA ultimately dropped a key goal of the research, their plans to measure pollution levels before and after fracking at two new well sites, the documents show.

All told, the documents raise serious questions about the study's credibility and they highlight a certain coziness between the EPA and Chesapeake Energy, one of the most aggressive oil and gas companies in the shale gas rush.

“[Y]ou guys are part of the team here,” one EPA representative wrote to Chesapeake Energy as they together edited study planning documents in October 2013, “please write things in as you see fit”.

Chesapeake took them up on the offer.

Mon, 2015-03-02 00:01Guest
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'One of the Highlights of My Life is Being Called a Pagan Pornographer'

The ‘Lady of the North’, Northumberlandia, has been hailed by her supporters as an iconic gateway for the region, attracting visitors from all around the world, writes Matteo Civillini.

Standing 34 metres high and 470 metres long, the £3m landform sculpture in the shape of a reclining nude female sits proudly at the centre of Matt Ridley’s Blagdon Estate.

But was this really the best way of providing benefit to a community that would have to reluctantly accommodate the largest surface mine in England in its own backyard?

Sun, 2015-03-01 14:58Graham Readfearn
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Was Climate Science Denialist Willie Soon Funded To Do Science Or Was It Just PR Cash From The Fossil Fuel Industry?

Willie Soon fossil fuel funding

So one of the climate science denial industry’s most celebrated scientists has been caught describing his research work as “deliverables” to his fossil fuel funders.

Dr Willie Soon, the aeronautics engineer who dabbles in public health, atmospheric science, solar physics and sea level rise, describes himself as an “independent scientist”.

More often though over the years, he is described by others as an “astrophysicist” at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, lending him credibility which most serious climate scientists would argue Soon’s science doesn’t deserve.

As one University of Michigan professor put it to the Chronicle of Higher Education: “Why is anyone even listening to him? Because he’s got ‘Harvard’ after his name. Once you take that away, who is Willie Soon? He’s nobody.”

In recent days, the Smithsonian has pointed out that even though Soon is employed as a “part time researcher at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Laboratory” they don’t actually pay him. “Dr. Soon pursues external sources to fund his research activity,” a statement said.

Soon has solicited more than $1.5 million since 2001 from fossil fuel companies and conservative foundations.

Coal electricity generator Southern Company, Exxon, Donors Trust, the Charles G. Koch Foundation and the American Petroleum Institute have been among his key funders.

Sun, 2015-03-01 13:53Guest
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Iowa Governor Terry Branstad´s Former Chief of Staff Now A Paid Lobbyist For Bakken Oil Pipeline Company

Iowa flag

By David Goodner

Energy Transfer Partners, a Fortune 500 corporation attempting to build a controversial crude oil pipeline through the state of Iowa, has hired Governor Terry Branstad´s former chief of staff to lobby on its behalf at the state legislature.

Jeff Boeyink, a long-time confidant and ally of Governor Branstad, who served as the governor´s chief of staff from 2010-2013, registered as a paid lobbyist for Energy Transfer Partners on January 5, a DeSmogBlog review of Iowa statehouse documents found.

Boeyink is also a former Executive Director of the Iowa Republican Party and has close ties to New Jersey governor and potential GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie.

He is currently Senior Vice President at the corporate public relations firm LS2group, which has represented Energy Transfer Partners in Iowa since at least July 2014.

LS2group is the same consulting and marketing firm that helped the American Petroleum Institute bring General James Jones to Des Moines on Earth Day last year to give a speech promoting the Keystone XL pipeline.

LS2group´s Director of Government Affairs, Susan Severino Fenton, another Iowa Republican political insider, is also a registered statehouse lobbyist for Energy Transfer Partners.

On February 17, Boeyink attended an Iowa Senate Commerce subcommittee meeting and spoke out against Iowa Senate File 129, a proposed insurance liability bill that could require Energy Transfer Partners to prove it can afford to pay up to $250,000 per mile for any potential oil spills from its pipeline operations.

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