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Thu, 2014-02-13 16:27Caroline Selle
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Maryland At High Risk of Water Contamination From Fracking, Independent Assessment Finds

An independent assessment commissioned by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Citizen Shale, two Maryland environmental groups, warns hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the state would pose a “high risk” to Maryland air and water.

The assessment, titled, “Shale Gas Risk Assessment for Maryland,” was conducted by Ricardo-AEA, the same United Kingdom-based independent environmental consulting firm that led the European Commission’s hydraulic fracturing risk assessment and regulatory review.

To develop an evaluation of the potential impacts of fracking in Maryland, the firm reviewed evidence of environmental and health issues associated with hydraulic fracturing, the gas industry’s standard operating practices and Maryland’s current regulatory framework. In the process, Ricardo-AEA conducted a literature review of more than 200 documents and evaluated Maryland-specific geological data. The study did not address climate or carbon footprint issues.

The assessment found a cumulative risk grade of “high” or “very high” in nine of ten qualities if fracking were to occur in Maryland. The qualities included a high risk of surface water contamination, ground water contamination, noise impacts, visual impacts, increased traffic and threats to biodiversity.

Additionally, the study notes fracking is estimated to use 3.88 million gallons of water per well, threatening Maryland water supplies from two sides. Fracking would also produce dangerous air emissions such as particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and sulfur dioxide.

The study also predicts a “very high risk” of undeveloped land being taken over for development, with up to 10 percent more land needed for full development of a gas reservoir than is currently described as developed in Maryland's Allegheny and Garrett counties.

Though two western Maryland counties, Allegheny and Garrett, lie above the Marcellus Shale, fracking is currently prohibited in the state.

Tue, 2014-02-04 05:00Caroline Selle
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Fisherman Fighting Dominion Cove Point LNG Export Terminal Worried About Explosions, Long-Term Impacts

Pete Ide probably isn’t the first person you’d expect to oppose the Dominion Cove Point liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal.    

First of all, I have to be frank,” he says. “I depend on fossil fuels to make a living.” A charter boat captain on the Chesapeake Bay, Ide has fished his entire life. As such, he’s seen the decline in water quality and marine life in the Chesapeake firsthand.

The water quality has been so bad these past two years, I had to move my boat because there weren’t any fish here,” he says. The dead zones get larger every year as algae blooms exacerbated by runoff from farm fertilizer, industrial livestock and poultry production eat up the oxygen marine life needs to survive.

Though the Dominion Cove Point LNG terminal won’t be dumping fertilizer, Ide says it will just be one more step in the degradation. “It’s not going to put me out of business,” he says, “but it's another brick in the wall. It's 49 more acres of heavy industrial build-out on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay.”

Through seafood production and tourism, the Chesapeake Bay supports more than a trillion dollars of economic activity. The Calvert County shore in Maryland, where Dominion Energy plans to build the liquefaction facility, is home to wetlands and rare species of plants and animals, including migratory birds. Construction would require clearing forests and bringing in heavy construction materials on the Patuxent River.

Dominion Energy’s plans require constructing an on-site 130 megawatt power plant, storage units and a liquefaction facility. Upstream, pipelines, pier adjustments and compressor stations will need to be constructed or adapted for shipping natural gas.

When constructed, the facility will be the fourth largest greenhouse gas emitter in Maryland, and it won’t just be pumping out greenhouse gases. Nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and particulates are all byproducts of natural gas usage and are air pollutants regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Air Act. The World Health Organization recognized the negative health effects of air pollution, such as cancer, earlier this year.

Tue, 2014-01-28 11:06Caroline Selle
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Maryland Residents Fight Cove Point LNG Export Plans That Threaten To Turn Area Into “Industrial Site”

When Jean Marie Neal and her husband moved to Calvert County, Maryland, she knew natural gas was imported nearby at the Dominion Cove LNG plant. 

“We did not object,” Neal says, “because we knew at that point the United States needed to import gas.” But now, with Dominion's proposal to build a liquefied natural gas export terminal (LNG) on land not far from her neighborhood, Neal’s feelings on natural gas infrastructure have changed dramatically. “It’s not even for us,” she says.

Dominion Energy plans to obtain gas from Marcellus Shale frack fields in Pennsylvania and transport it via pipeline through the Old Line state. The proposed $3.8 billion Dominion Cove Point liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal, located in Lusby, Maryland, would liquefy more than 750 million cubic feet of natural gas per day for shipments to India and Japan.

Now Neal, formerly a chief of staff in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, represents the Cove of Calvert homeowners’ association. She says the residents of Cove Point are speaking up because they’re having trouble finding answers.

Neal echoes the sentiments of many Marylanders, who say their opposition to the Cove Point export plan is more than a NIMBY concern. It’s part of a larger debate about whose interests natural gas exports are really in — corporate interest or the public interest?

Mon, 2013-12-16 14:56Caroline Selle
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Carbon Emissions And Financial Risk Concentrated In 90 Top Emitters Responsible For 60% Of Emissions

A survey released last week indicates many major institutional investors, such as retirement funds and insurance companies, are putting their investments at risk by neglecting to address the negative financial impacts posed by climate change.

It’s no wonder that some of these investments are dicey when you consider the findings of another paper released last month, which indicated 90 companies are responsible for two-thirds of manmade carbon emissions. That’s not just a huge concentration of carbon emissions — it’s a concentrated dose of financial risk.

Published in the journal of Climatic Change, the report, “Tracing anthropogenic carbon dioxide and methane emissions to fossil fuel and cement producers, 1854–2010,” uses public records and data from the U.S. Department of Energy to calculate emissions based on the companies’ entire supply chains.

All but seven of the 90 companies identified are part of the fossil fuel industry.

Nearly 30 percent of emissions were produced by just the top 20 companies. Together, ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips and Peabody Energy, all investor-owned companies, are responsible for more than 13 percent of manmade carbon emissions.

These companies also have a disproportionate amount of political influence in North America. In the United States alone, ExxonMobilChevron and BP have contributed more than $12 million to lawmakers since 1999.

Half of the emissions traced by the report were produced in the last 25 years, when awareness of global warming was increasing. Concerted efforts to deny climate science and halt climate policy began in the early 1990s. As an updated Greenpeace report released in September 2013 shows, the climate denial machine has its roots in Exxon’s funding of front groups.

Thu, 2013-11-14 05:01Caroline Selle
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Nobel Women's Initiative Report Explores Tar Sands Expansion Plans From The Perspective of Local Women

A year ago, six female Nobel laureates set out on a nine-day trek across Alberta and British Columbia to find out how Canada’s tar sands expansion is uniquely impacting the lives of women.

The resulting 44-page report [PDF], “Breaking Ground: Women, Oil and Climate Change in Alberta and British Columbia,” contains stories curated from meetings with more than 200 women in 13 communities directly impacted by the tar sands.

While people look at the environment and climate change — the health of our planet overall — very few look at it from the perspective of women,” said Jody Williams, the leader of the mission and the 2007 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for her work to ban landmines. “And as with many crises the world over, it’s the women and children who suffer the most when their environment is destroyed.”

The report looks at how tar sands expansion is impacting the environment, health and the social fabric of communities and contains some disturbing anecdotes. 

Women and their communities feel their concerns are ignored,” the authors wrote, “or worse, they are deemed enemies of the state, facing violence and ostracism for asking difficult questions.”

The expansion of the tar sands industry is happening more quickly than most epidemiological studies can be conducted, but higher rates of cancer have been confirmed in some communities. Still, many in the path of the tar sands have been pushed to sign non-disclosure agreements and the government encourages scientists and doctors to refrain from engaging with the public.

Wed, 2013-09-18 14:49Caroline Selle
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Poland Partners with Coal and Oil Corporate Sponsors for COP19 Climate Conference

On Tuesday, the Polish Government - host of the UNFCCC COP19 international climate negotiations - announced twelve corporate partners of the conference. While the Polish Environment Ministry suggests, “The products and services they [the partners] offer are green,” many of the corporate partners’ histories tell stories of a different hue.

This rare decision to openly embrace corporate partners for COP19 begs the question of whether this is simply a greenwashing exercise for the coal and oil corporations involved.

The COP19 corporate partners include:

Alstom Power: The French energy company was one of seven finalists for the People’s Public Eye Awards in 2013 for its numerous bribery scandals. Alstom claims to be a key component of nearly 25% of the world’s power production capacity.

Among other services, Alstom builds coal power plants. A fact sheet on the company’s website states that Alstom is the original equipment manufacturer for 95% of Poland’s coal power plant fleet installed since 1990. Alstom is currently seeking to play a major role in the construction of two new 900 megawatt coal plants in Poland.

Alstom will provide free drinking water and cups to conference attendees.

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