environment

Mon, 2011-05-30 12:19Farron Cousins
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New Jersey Governor Christie Bails On Carbon Pollution Reduction Initiative

New Jersey governor Chris Christie has decided that he is no longer willing to cooperate with other states in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Christie announced this week that his state will be pulling out of a program with ten other Northeastern states that aimed to reduce carbon pollution and institute a cap-and-trade program among the states.

In an announcement on his decision, Christie declared the program – which has been in place for almost 8 years – to be a complete failure that has done nothing to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and that the program is hurting job creation in his state.

Fri, 2011-05-27 12:52Farron Cousins
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Oil and Gas Disasters Raise The Ire of Colorado Hunters

The Bull Moose Sportsmen Alliance in Colorado has set their sights on the oil and gas industry. In a new report, the hunting and fishing group highlights the damage that the dirty energy industry has done to their hunting and fishing grounds for years. Among the more damning findings are the fact that there are over 100 oil spills every year in just three counties in Colorado – Garfield, Mesa, and Rio Blanco. The state of Colorado has confirmed that no fewer than 77 of these spills managed to taint water supplies of the three counties. These spills combined have leaked more than 5.6 million gallons of oil into the lands that the Bull Moose Sportsmen Alliance works to preserve.

As the Alliance points out, the hunting and fishing industry in Colorado brings in more than $1.2 billion a year, making it more profitable than the sports industry in the state, which includes NFL, NBA, and MLB teams. But thanks to the reckless oil and gas industry, the ecosystems and habitat that hunters and fishermen spend that billion-plus dollars to enjoy are threatened.

Thu, 2011-05-12 11:18Farron Cousins
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Fracking Study Panel Filled With Gas Industry Insiders

In an under-reported move on May 5th, the Obama administration announced the members of a government panel created to study the practice of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), and determine if there are ways, or even a necessity, to make it safer for the environment and public health. Unfortunately, according to a report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the administration stacked the panel with oil and gas industry insiders.

As DeSmogBlog reports have detailed, the practice of fracking has been linked to numerous environmental dangers, including the release of methane into drinking water supplies as well as releasing carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and carbon monoxide into the atmosphere. In spite of these findings, the energy industry continues to insist that fracking is safe, and with industry insiders packing the Administration’s new safety panel, their findings will likely mirror those of the industry.

Tue, 2011-05-10 14:37Farron Cousins
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Scientists Confirm Fracking Link To Flammable Drinking Water

A new peer-reviewed study from Duke University shows that drinking water in areas within a half-mile of fracking wells can become contaminated with dangerous levels of methane - enough to catch on fire if lit. The report says that the levels of methane in some areas of Pennsylvania and New York are so great that they pose a significant fire and explosion hazard.

The study was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. One of the study’s authors, Duke environmental science professor Robert Jackson, says that the threat of explosions in this drinking water are real and need to be dealt with. From a CNN report:

“The study said about half of the 68 drinking water wells tested in Pennsylvania and New York located within a half a mile from natural gas wells had high levels of methane – the prime ingredient in natural gas fuel…The gas, which is usually located thousands of feet below the water table, appears to be entering the water wells either through cracks in the bedrock or, more likely, the casing in natural gas wells… Casings are steel and concrete barriers natural gas companies use to line a well where it passes through the water table.”

Fri, 2011-04-29 11:12Farron Cousins
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State Of Florida To Fast Track Environmental Destruction

Environmental groups in the state of Florida are working overtime this week in an attempt to stop a bill from passing the Florida Legislature that would give corporations the green light to destroy the environment. The bill, HB-991, would make it easier for corporations to obtain permits for things like mining, manufacturing, and razing an entire ecosystem for companies doing business in Florida. Audubon of Florida, 1000 Friends of Florida, the Sierra Club, the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Nature Conservancy and the National Parks Conservation Association have joined forces this week, urging people to make phone calls to their representatives in an effort to stop the bill.

What makes that bill so dangerous is that it shifts environmental burdens from corporations to citizens. If passed by the Republican-controlled Florida legislature, the bill would no longer require a company to prove that their activities would not harm the environment or nearby residents. Instead, residents who say that companies are polluting or otherwise destroying the environment will have to prove to the state that these things are happening.

Wed, 2011-04-27 11:15Mike Casey
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National Coal Expert: “Mining is a Loser” in Practically Every Way

Originally posted at The Great Energy Challenge blog

Anytime coal’s cost to America is discussed, the coal industry reflexively talks about what an economic lifeline it is for the states in which it operates. Headwaters Economics, a Bozeman-based think tank focusing on natural resource issues, has a solid new study that’s getting national attention for undercutting those claims. For instance, the Headwaters study finds that “[f]ossil fuel production has not insulated energy-producing states from fiscal crisis,” that “[f]ossil fuel extraction has a limited influence at the state level on economic indicators such as GDP by state, personal income, and employment,” and that “[t]he volatility of fossil fuel markets poses obstacles to the stability and long-term security of economic growth in energy-producing regions.”

This is a problem for the coal industry, which spends heavily to construct a fantasy world in which it’s a “clean” industry to which we should feel grateful, a vital supplier of our power, and an economic lifeline to host communities.

But in the real world, coal’s case is even weaker than the Headwaters study shows. The work of Professor Michael Hendryx of West Virginia University goes even further. His work has looked at the costs of coal mining to the Appalachian communities that host it.

Sat, 2011-04-23 11:53Farron Cousins
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Congressional Democrats Warn of Gas Fracking Dangers

Just days after an explosion rocked a hydraulic fracturing site in Pennsylvania, Congressional Democrats released a report detailing the dangers associated with fracking. Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have been investigating the dangers of fracking for years, and their new report has some startling new information about the risks, and which areas of the country are facing the biggest threats.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) summarized the major findings of the report as follows:

Over a five-year period from 2005-2009, companies used more than 2,500 hydraulic fracturing products containing 750 different chemicals and other components, including chemicals that are known or possible human carcinogens or are federally regulated because at certain levels they are known to be quite harmful to human health–such as benzene, lead, and diesel fuel.

Two fracking products contained hydrofluoric acid (hydrogen fluoride in water). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “You could be exposed to hydrogen fluoride if it is used as a chemical terrorism agent.” Hydrofluoric acid can eat through hard rocks. According to the CDC, swallowing only a small amount of highly concentrated hydrofluoric acid or even splashes of hydrofluoric acid on the skin can be fatal. It can cause a wide range of very serious health effects.

Many of the fracking fluids contain chemical components that are listed as “proprietary” or “trade secret,” so the public cannot know what chemicals are being stored, used, or disposed of in their communities or near their drinking water sources.

Fri, 2011-04-22 04:45Farron Cousins
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Gingrich Calls EPA “A Job Killing Regulatory Engine Of Higher Energy Prices”

In a meeting with Tea Party activists, former Republican Speaker of the House and potential 2012 presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was nothing more than “a job-killing regulatory engine of higher energy prices.” Gingrich was discussing with the group the best way to go about lowering gas and heating oil prices for American consumers, both of which he blamed squarely on President Obama. He also pitched the idea that the United States needed to lift bans on unconventional oil extraction, ignoring the potential consequences of that particular fuel source.

This is not the first time that Gingrich has seized an opportunity to go after the EPA. Back in January, he told the Associated Press that, if president, he would completely abolish the agency. In its place, he would create a new organization that works with businesses to help draft “friendly” environmental policies. Gingrich went on to describe how he views the EPA: “What you have is a very expensive bureaucracy that across the board makes it harder to solve problems, slows down the development of new innovations.”

Mon, 2011-04-18 04:45Farron Cousins
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Emails Reveal BP Attempted To Manipulate Oil Spill Studies

Emails obtained by Greenpeace last Friday have revealed that BP was actively trying to manipulate studies designed to assess the damage from last year’s oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. In the wake of the disaster, BP created a $500 million fund to study the effects of the oil on the environment, and the emails obtained by Greenpeace show that the company was trying to control which scientists worked on the project, attempting to cherry-pick those who would downplay the effects of the oil.

The Guardian reports:

Russell Putt, a BP environmental expert, wrote in an email to colleagues on 24 June 2010: “Can we ‘direct’ GRI [Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative] funding to a specific study (as we now see the governor’s offices trying to do)? What influence do we have over the vessels/equipment driving the studies vs the questions?”.



The Guardian has the full emails available here.  But the new emails are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to BP’s efforts to manipulate science. Last summer, a report by the Mobile Press-Register revealed that BP was offering large sums of cash to any scientist willing to join their camp. The oil giant had been meeting with scientists from universities in the South since the early days of the oil leak, offering to pay $250 an hour to scientists in exchange for their silence on the oil disaster.

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.

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