Carol Linnitt's blog

Sat, 2011-07-23 12:24Carol Linnitt
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Exxon and Koch Pay ALEC for Access to State Legislators

Corporations are circumventing lobby laws by purchasing direct access to the nation’s lawmakers, according to a recent Bloomberg investigative report. Through membership fees paid to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a Washington D.C. based policy institute, corporate entities like Exxon Mobil and Koch Industries are playing an active role in shaping state legislation.

According to Bloomberg, Koch and Exxon are among energy companies that stand to benefit from a cross-country energy policy that they helped write. Both companies paid a participation fee between $3,000 and $10,000 to sit at a legislative drafting table, among policy authors and elected officials.

ALEC charges membership fees of up to $35,000 and levies additional costs if companies want to join in policy creation sessions. The resulting draft “model legislation” is then adopted by member officials who support its passage into law.

The process amounts to a legal loophole, through which corporations can influence public procedure without registering the activity as lobbying.

Thu, 2011-07-21 11:30Carol Linnitt
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Shell Forced to Retract "Misleading" Fracking Adverts in South Africa

The gas industry has finally received the slap on the hand it deserves for parroting the outdated refrain: “there are no instances of documented water contamination from hydraulic fracturing.” In South Africa, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ordered oil and gas giant Shell to withdraw claims about shale gas drilling, after the authority found the company guilty of propagating misleading information in several newspapers.

The Karoo region of South Africa has become an international target for unconventional gas producers since its vast shale gas deposits were discovered in recent years. The rush to drill created a wave of public concern, after reports of fracking disasters, including water contamination, well blow-outs and explosions, have become commonplace across America. The government has called for a delay in granting drilling permits until a full-scale study is completed to address mounting concerns.

Looking to sway public opinion, Shell published numerous full-page public relations adverts in local newspapers, claiming that hydraulic fracturing is used in 90% of gas wells and has never caused water contamination.

Sat, 2011-07-16 10:44Carol Linnitt
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Post Carbon Institute Analysis Suggests Shale Gas (Still) Worse Than Coal For Climate

Shale gas cannot provide a low carbon “interim” fuel for the transition to a clean energy future, according to David Hughes, fellow at the Post Carbon Institute (PCI). Gas advocates have long advertized unconventional gas as a clean alternative to coal and other polluting fossil fuels. But the cleanliness of unconventional gas is challenged by others who claim that lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from shale gas are in fact higher than coal. 

One such claim, maintained by a group of scientists from Cornell University led by Dr. Robert Howarth, puts shale gas GHG emissions 20 to 100 percent higher than coal on a 20-year timeframe. Their study, published in the peer-reviewed Climactic Change Letters, has received enormous criticism from the gas industry and its supporters. Several reviews have challenged the integrity of the Cornell study, including a presentation given by scientist Timothy Skone from the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). According to Skone, GHG emissions from gas are 48 percent lower on a 20-year timeframe.

In an analysis entitled “Lifecycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Shale Gas Compared to Coal,” Hughes compares the two conflicting conclusions to get to the source of the disparity. With a little number crunching, he discovers that there may be less of a disagreement than meets the eye.

Fri, 2011-07-15 11:29Carol Linnitt
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Talisman Energy Shelves "Friendly Fracosaurus" Coloring Book After Colbert Smackdown

Talisman Terry, the Friendly Fracosaurus, has been officially suspended from his duties as an unconventional gas mascot. The cartoon dinosaur was used to narrate Talisman Energy’s company coloring book which described the dangerous process of unconventional gas extraction as safe, clean and patriotic.

Talisman Energy decided to shelve the promotional material after numerous reports criticized the company for engaging in child-directed propaganda. The coloring book, called “Talisman Terry’s Energy Adventures,” portrays gas drilling processes in simplistic and euphoric terms, giving the impression that these controversial drilling techniques, which are connected to numerous instances of air pollution and water contamination, are environmentally beneficial. The 24-page book features images of drilling sites with smiling wildlife and overarching rainbows.

Talisman Energy has been cited for numerous environmental violations and has one of the worst drilling records in Pennsylvania, a fact the children’s book made no mention of.

Wed, 2011-07-13 19:02Carol Linnitt
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Fracking Wastes Devastate Research Forest in Virginia

Wastewater from hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations poses a serious threat to national forests, according to a researcher from the U.S. Forest Service. Mary Beth Adams conducted a two year study of soil and vegetation health in West Virginia after more than 75,000 gallons of fracking wastewater were applied to a portion of forest set aside for research. 

The study, appearing in the July-August issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of Environmental Quality, tracks the effects of fracking wastewater on a quarter-acre section of the Fernow Experimental Forest in the Monongahela National Forest. Adams monitored the effects of the land application over a two-year period.

Within two days, the contaminated fluids had killed all ground level plant life and within 10 days began to brown the foliage of trees. Within two years all of the trees showed signs of damage and more than half of the 150 trees in the test area were dead. The study notes a dramatic 50-fold increase of sodium and chloride in surface soil after the application, but, because the chemical composition of fracking wastes is protected as proprietary information, the full contamination effects could not be studied.

Thu, 2011-07-07 13:38Carol Linnitt
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Federal Agency Captured By Gas and Pipeline Industry

The Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is responsible for overseeing, monitoring and maintaining 2.3 million miles of pipeline. A recent investigation conducted by Hearst Newspapers discovered that the federal agency is heavily influenced by the gas and pipeline industry which exercises a significant amount of control over the regulatory body’s decisions.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is working to limit industry influence in federal safety studies of the country’s onshore pipeline network. LaHood’s decision is directed against a 2002 Bush-era rule requiring the federal agency to receive at least half of its funding for safety research from outside sources. The Hearst investigation found that, since the ruling, the PHMSA’s research is largely managed according to industry interests.

The investigation revealed that out of 174 safety studies conducted in the last decade by the federal PHMSA, two-thirds were funded by pipeline operators or other industry-controlled groups. Of the total studies, 89 were funded by a combination of 5 industry organizations that provide research and 3 that provide lobbying expertise.

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