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Tue, 2011-04-19 16:49Brendan DeMelle
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Gas Industry Admits Water Contamination in Pennsylvania, Drillers Told To Stop Fracking Wastewater Delivery To POTWs

Photo credit: David Turnbull

Pennsylvania news outlets reported two major developments in the controversy over fracking and unconventional gas today. The president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition has admitted publicly that fracking has contaminated local drinking water supplies in Pennsylvania.

And PA governor Tom Corbett has ordered gas drillers to stop taking fracking wastewater to public water treatment facilities (POTWs).

Carnegie Mellon University Professor Jeanne VanBreisen was first to discover high levels of bromides in drinking water sourced from rivers that have received treated fracking wastewater. Bromide is a salt also found in drilling wastewater from fracking operations.

The news is extra worrisome because bromides, when combined with chlorine at water treatment plants, can create bromates trihalomethanes, which are linked to bladder cancer, miscarriage and still births.

Mon, 2011-04-11 12:10Brendan DeMelle
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"Fracking" Shale Gas Emissions Far Worse Than Coal For Climate - Cornell Study

**UPDATE: The Cornell paper is now available in final, published format here: “Methane and the greenhouse-gas emissions footprint of natural gas from shale formations.”[PDF]

The Hill reported this morning on a groundbreaking report from Cornell University researchers confirming that shale gas recovered through high volume hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” will produce even more greenhouse gases than the burning of coal in the next two decades - a critical window in which society must reduce emissions to combat climate change. While natural gas is often viewed as a “cleaner alternative” to conventional fossil fuels - and is often promoted as a “bridge fuel” by environmentalists and politicians alike - the new Cornell report explodes this myth.

Gas is not just a “bridge to nowhere,” it turns out to be a highway to hell. The Cornell study makes clear that the widely-held perception that gas is the “cleaner” darling of the fossil fuel trio is a myth. With total methane emissions factored in, shale gas turns out to have the greatest climate impact of all the fossil fuels.

Contrary to popular belief, gas is just as polluting as coal in the long term - and far worse in the near term due to the higher warming impact from methane when it is first released to the atmosphere during the controversial fracking stage.  This news is certain to rattle policymakers in Washington who have promoted gas as a solution to our energy crisis. The Cornell paper is a game changer, and its release this week should command the attention of everyone concerned about our energy future.

Wed, 2011-04-06 17:38Brendan DeMelle
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Koch Industries' Lobbying Curtain Lifted By Center For Public Integrity

The Center for Public Integrity has an in-depth look today at Koch Industries’ “Web of Influence” in Washington, revealing the immense growth in Koch’s spending on lobbyists and influence peddling over the last few years. As the CPI investigation notes, the Kochtopus’s lobbying army has its tentacles wrapped around all kinds of issues, not just its core oil business, but its wide-ranging stakes in everything from Canadian tar sands to ethanol to toxic chemicals to financial regulation (or preserving the lack thereof).

The CPI report lifts the veil on a few individual Koch lobbyists, notably Gregory Zerzan, a name that nobody outside Washington would recognize, yet who has had tremendous impact on the Hill as a Koch toady.

As the report notes:

“The money that Koch (pronounced “coke”) has spent on lobbying in Washington has soared in recent years, from $857,000 in 2004 to $20 million in 2008. The Kochs then spent another $20.5 million over the next two years to influence federal policy, as the company’s lobbyists and officials sought to mold, gut or kill more than 100 prospective bills or regulations.”

Check out the rest of the report over at the CPI website. It’s a great display of the kind of transparency needed in Washington, which remains overrun with lobbyists despite President Obama’s campaign pledge to limit their influence over federal policymaking. 

With the huge influx of Koch money into lobbying and campaign contributions - thanks to the democracy-destroying Citizens United decision - it will be hard to have an honest debate about much of anything in Congress. Polluter money prevails, for the time being, so it’s important to know which dirty money purveyors to pin the blame on for the deterioration of our democracy, public health and the environment. These days, the Koch brothers are Exhibit A.

Tue, 2011-04-05 14:52Brendan DeMelle
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Greenwashed Alberta Land Use Plan Protects Tar Sands and Timber Interests Over Athabascan Environment

The Alberta government released its Lower Athabasca Regional Plan (LARP) today extolling the province’s efforts to protect lands from industrial development – except it turns out the claims more closely resemble greenwash than fact. Not only are the areas set aside for protection much smaller than originally recommended by the province’s Regional Advisory Council, but they also appear to have been chosen for their total lack of potential value to the oil and gas or commercial forestry industries.

In fact, 85 percent of the newly protected areas lack any commercially viable oil, gas and timber.

The areas set aside for conservation are largely located in the rocky north of the province, and are not representative of the rich forest ecosystems found in the southern Athabasca region – the lands impacted the most by industrial timber and tar sands exploitation.

 While the government claims 16.17 percent of the lands are newly protected conservation areas, in fact only 10.6 percent are truly protected. The remaining 5.57 percent of the conservation areas allow “ecosystem forestry,” a greenwashing term for business as usual that allows industrial logging on these ‘protected’ lands.

Wed, 2011-03-30 18:25Brendan DeMelle
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Check Out This PBS Show Tonight, Lester Brown's Plan B: Mobilizing To Save Civilization

If you’re looking for something good to watch or record on TV tonight, tune in to PBS’s ‘Journey To Planet Earth’ series for a special called ‘Plan B: Mobilizing To Save Civilization.’ (10pm EST, or check local listings)

The program - nicely narrated by Matt Damon - is based on the book of the same name by author and environmentalist Lester Brown, and it details the impacts that climate change is having on food systems already, with troubling indications for political stability in an increasingly destabilized climate. 

As Brown points out ominously, global food shortages are already causing political turmoil in several areas of the world, and as glaciers and ice caps continue to melt, the situation is sure to get much worse.  Brown asserts that food shortages will pose the greatest threat to civilization out of all the negative consequences anticipated with climate disruption.

Tue, 2011-03-29 14:38Brendan DeMelle
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FRACKING HELL: The True Cost of America's Gas Rush (Video)

I recently re-watched this 18-minute video produced by Britain’s Ecologist Film Unit profiling the threats posed by hydraulic fracturing for gas in the Marcellus Shale in the eastern U.S.  It’s an excellent primer for anyone who wants to get up to speed on this issue. And, as this piece makes clear, the fracking threat and shale gas boom are not confined to the eastern U.S. by a long shot. 

In addition to the huge gas rush in the U.S. West, as well as in B.C. and elsewhere in Canada, there is a growing industry effort to bring all the pollution and contamination risks of fracking to Europe too - just beginning in the UK, Poland, France and Germany.

The piece outlines the major threats - many recently profiled by the New York Times in its Drilling Down series - from radioactive wastewater, fracking chemicals and other risks to drinking water and public health posed by shale gas development. It explains the devestating toll that gas drilling has had on families and communities across the eastern U.S. region where the shale gas boom is underway, and the consequences of letting this practice gain acceptance throughout the world.

As the LinkTV narrator asks in her preface to their re-run of the video, “The gas business may be booming, but at what price for people?”

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