Brendan DeMelle's blog

Sat, 2012-06-30 08:00Brendan DeMelle
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Aspen Ideas Festival Fracking Debate Livestream - Tune in Sunday

This Sunday, July 1, FORA.tv is hosting a free, online debate at the Aspen Ideas Festival, “No Fracking Way: Is The Natural Gas Boom Doing More Harm Than Good?

The debate will feature Deborah Goldberg and Katherine Hudson arguing for the motion, Joe Nocera and Susan Tierney arguing against. (See below for brief bios.)

The debate will be streaming live online at 6pm PDT (3pm EDT), and you can tune in here at DeSmogBlog to watch as well.

Wed, 2012-06-27 22:09Brendan DeMelle
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Fracking Industry Enjoyed Privileged Access To Controversial New York DEC Environmental Review

Documents obtained by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) show that bureaucrats within the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NY DEC) granted the oil and gas industry premature access to highly controversial draft regulations for shale gas fracking in the state. New York placed a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for gas in order to evaluate the science on the risks posed to drinking water, air quality and the health of New York's citizens and the environment. 

The documents, obtained by EWG through New York's Freedom of Information Law, show that the fracking industry received an unfair advantage thanks to DEC officials who provided detailed summaries of their proposed rules exclusively to oil and gas industry representatives. This allowed industry a six-week head start to lobby state officials to weaken the proposed standards before the public was granted access to the plan.

Of particular concern, a lobbyist for scandal-ridden gas giant Chesapeake Energy used the exclusive access to the draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) to attempt to weaken the proposed rules restricting discharges of radioactive wastewater.

Thomas West, a prominent oil and gas industry lobbyist representing Chesapeake and other industry clients, made “one last pitch” – in an email to DEC Deputy Commissioner and General Counsel Steven Russo – to “reduce or eliminate radionuclide testing” of fluids that could migrate from drilling sites during storms, according to the documents.

NY DEC has previously found concentrations of cancer-causing radioactive pollution at shale gas drilling sites that exceeded safe drinking water standards by hundreds of times or more, according to EWG's report “Inside Track: Cuomo Team Gives Drillers Jump Start to Influence Fracking Rules.” 

“This is like giving the drilling industry three laps around the track while everyone else was left waiting on the starting block,” said Thomas Cluderay, EWG assistant general counsel. “The public needs to know whether New York regulators compromised the integrity of the state's drilling plan months ago, despite promises of keeping the process fair and transparent.”

Mon, 2012-06-25 21:51Brendan DeMelle
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Heartland Institute, ALEC and More Gearing Up to Undermine Renewable Energy

One of the environmental movement’s biggest accomplishments over the past decade has been convincing states to adopt so-called renewable portfolio standards (RPS). RPS require a state’s energy supply to diversify, gradually shifting away from fossil fuels and towards renewable sources like geothermal, wind and solar.

At least 30 states now have these measures which set deadlines to ensure that a certain amount – sometimes as much as 40 percent – of energy consumed in the state comes from renewable sources. As climate change, air pollution and the broad-based political attacks on renewable sources of energy grow worse by the day, these RPS are more crucial than ever.

But they’re in jeopardy.

State legislatures have introduced a handful of bills over the past year seeking to repeal state RPS altogether or to expand the definition of renewable energy in ways that will weaken their climate change benefits. In the past several months, two major conservative groups – the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform  – said they plan a full-scale legislative push to remove the mandates.

Fri, 2012-06-22 17:32Brendan DeMelle
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Christopher Monckton Described as "Loose Cannon" "17th Century Pamphleteer" By UKIP, Party Cuts Ties With Him

The Guardian reports that the UK Independence Party (UKIP) has distanced itself from “Lord” Christopher Monckton, the crazypants climate denier who thinks President Obama's birth certificate is fake, compared youth climate activists to “Hitler Youth” and a litany of other crazy stunts well-documented here at DeSmog over the years. 

The Guardian's Leo Hickman reports today from Rio, where Monckton is pulling his usual shenanigans: 
  

As has become the norm at such international gatherings in recent years, the eccentric climate sceptic Lord Monckton has flown in to Rio to perform his party piece about how environmentalists are trying to establish a “world socialist government”, and such like. What is less clear these days is whether his colleagues at the UK Independence Party (Ukip) approve of such interventions.

Under Lord Pearson, the previous Ukip leader, Monckton was the party's deputy leader and was also variously the head of the party's policy unit, as well as its spokesman on energy and the environment. But ever since fellow eccentric climate sceptic Roger Helmer defected from the Conservatives to Ukip earlier this year, he has assumed the latter role. So what, if any, role does Monckton now have at Ukip?

Gawain Towler, Ukip's press spokesman, has confirmed to me this morning that Monckton “no longer has any formal role” with Ukip. Towler described Monckton as an “outlier” who is now “semi-detached” from the party, partly because he's “barely in the country these days”. (Before arriving in Rio, Monckton had been touring the US Tea Party circuit casting doubt on the origins of Barack Obama's birth certificate.) [See DeSmog's coverage of Monckton's birther tour]

I asked if there had been a falling out between Monckton and the current Ukip leader, Nigel Farage. Towler said not, but said that Monckton - whom he described as a “17th century pamphleteer” - was sometimes the source of “frustration” and was “very much Lord Pearson's man - they own contiguous shooting estates in Scotland”. Towler added that Monckton had been active in the party at a time when it was “not drowning in talent”, but the recent surge in popularity for the party had seen a fresh influx of personnel. Monckton was a “loose cannon”, said Towler, but Helmer is a “tied-down cannon, pointed in the same direction”.

With his political prospects looking increasingly bleak, “Lord” Monckton is slipping further into irrelevancy. Look for him to continue trying to outdo the Heartland Institute in increasingly insane stunts. Let's just hope he's given up skydiving because that was a scary sight

Wed, 2012-06-20 15:48Brendan DeMelle
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The Sky Is Pink: New Josh Fox Video On Fracking Controversies in New York (and Much More)

Gasland director Josh Fox is back with a must-watch new short video taking a look at the controversy in New York where Governor Andrew Cuomo is considering plans to lift the state's moratorium on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for unconventional gas.

But it's much more than just a local story. Fox goes into some great details - including in interviews with former Pittsburgh City Councilman Doug Shields and Merchants of Doubt co-author Naomi Oreskes - looking at the irresponsible journalism practice of 'he said, she said' reporting of issues where reporters don't bother to parse fact from industry propaganda. 

Fox also details the facts behind the 'tapwater on fire' scene from Gasland and the extreme efforts by industry to attack Gasland on this point. It's a must-watch takedown of the industry's slippery PR efforts to distract the public from the real threats that fracking poses to our drinking water and health. 

These are just a few highlights. It's really impressive how much great information is packed into this 18-minute video. Please watch it and share it widely. Otherwise, “the sky is pink” might actually turn into a reality for New Yorkers and everyone else being lied to by this reckless industry. 

Watch Josh Fox's new production, The Sky Is Pink:
  

Tue, 2012-06-19 11:40Brendan DeMelle
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Breaking: Leaked Rio+20 Earth Summit Final Agreed Text - Utterly Inadequate Response to Global Crises

DeSmogBlog has obtained the final negotiating text that will emerge from the Rio+20 Earth Summit and it is an utter disappointment to anyone who hoped that world leaders would pull together a meaningful global agreement on ending fossil fuel subsidies or other needed steps to protect future generations from resource depletion and global climate change.

Read the final text here: “The Future We Want”[.DOC] or [.PDF provided by DeSmog for those without Word]

Update: The Guardian (which first posted the text earlier today) has this summary of the implications:
  

Barring a last-minute rejection by one of the main negotiating blocks, the draft that will be presented to the 100 leaders attending the summit will contain almost no timetables, definitions or ways to monitor new sustainable development goals, nor will it strongly commit nations to move to a “green economy” that integrates environmental and social costs into decision-making.

Instead, civil society groups say the new text simply acknowledges the world's dire environmental and social problems without spelling out how to deal with them. 


Read the early reactions to the final text below from Greenpeace and WWF
  

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