You Don't Want to Miss DeSmog UK's Most Important Stories From January

It has only been one month into the New Year and already so much has happened. We’ve scored some amazing achievements in the fight to clear the PR pollution clouding climate science.

So as we head into February – and incidentally the sixth month anniversary of DeSmog UK – we share here with you our January highlights and say thank you for your keen interest and loyal readership.

By far the most incredible moment has been climate denier Matt Ridley’s response in The Times to our #mattkingcoal investigation.

Fracking Failure: Frackers In Pennsylvania Violate Health And Environmental Regulations On A Daily Basis

From the American Petroleum Institute’s claim that fracking is “safely unlocking vast U.S. reserves of oil and natural gas” to Chris “Frack Master” Faulkner himself insisting “fracking isn’t contaminating anything,” the oil and gas industry constantly tells us that fracking can be done safely, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary.

But just to be sure the public understands how seriously they considered public health, a group of oil and gas companies fracking in Pennsylvania formed the Center for Sustainable Shale Development in 2013. According to its website, CSSD is dedicated to “the development of rigorous performance standards for sustainable shale development and a commitment to continuous improvement to ensure safe and environmentally responsible development of our abundant shale resources.”

“Rigorous performance standards for sustainable shale development” certainly sounds great. The only problem is, none of the four companies that founded CSSD — Chevron Appalachia, Consol Energy, EQT Production and Shell — seems to have actually adhered to those standards.

According to a new report by Environment America titled “Fracking Failures: Oil and Gas Industry Environmental Violations in Pennsylvania and What They Mean for the U.S.,” ever since those four companies “told the public they would adhere to higher standards” in 2013, they have collectively committed as many as 100 violations of Pennsylvania’s existing oil and gas regulations.

Fracking Industry Showdown Preceding Stricter Fugitive Emissions Ordinances In Mansfield, Texas

Sharon Wilson, Earthworks’ Gulf Regional Organizer, described FLIR camera footage she shot of a fracking industry site on January 29 in Mansfield, Texas, as ‘the mother lode of all emissions.”

The issue of fugitive emissions — like those documented by Wilson at Summit Midstream Partners Compressor Station on the 29th — is one of the reasons that the Mansfield City Council is struggling with how to handle a request from another oil and gas company, Edge Resources, to renew an expired permit.

Approving the permit renewal would allow Edge Resources to pursue a large fracking industry development in a growing residential neighborhood not far from the Mansfield Performing Fine Arts Center, where fracking industry sites have already caused problems. A growing group of residents do not believe regulators can protect them from the gas industry.

Watch FLIR video shot by Sharon Wilson on behalf of the Citizen Empowerment Project at the Summit Midstream Partners Compressor Station:

Flustered Liz Truss Blames Civil Servants for Redacted Fracking Report Fiasco

Liz Truss, the environment secretary, turned on her own department yesterday as the Tory government came under increasing criticism for its heavy-handed redactions to a controversial report about fracking.

Truss, a Conservative member of the Cabinet, told the House of Commons there are “no plans” for the release of an unredacted version of the incedury Shale Gas: Rural Economy Impacts report and blamed her own officials at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

She complained that Defra should never have produced the report. “The economic impact of fracking is a matter for the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC),” she argued. She said the report “was not analytically robust and was not signed off by Ministers”.

How Much Longer Can David Cameron Continue to Defend 'Going All Out’ for Shale?

An avalanche of anti-fracking activity has swept over Britain this week. It seems each day brought with it another blow to the prospect of a swift shale revolution.

First, in an unexpected u-turn, the government agreed to ban fracking in national parks during Monday’s Infrastructure Bill debate. This represents a direct reversal of the policy it declared last year which allowed fracking in national parks under “exceptional circumstances”.

And while a moratorium on fracking was overwhelmingly rejected by MPs during the debate, this hasn’t stopped others from taking matters into their own hands.

Canada is Trading Away its Environmental Rights

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

In 1997, Canada restricted import and transfer of the gasoline additive MMT because it was a suspected neurotoxin that had already been banned in Europe. Ethyl Corp., the U.S. multinational that supplied the chemical, sued the government for $350 million under the North American Free Trade Agreement and won! Canada was forced to repeal the ban, apologize to the company and pay an out-of-court settlement of US$13 million.

The free trade agreement between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico was never designed to raise labour and environmental standards to the highest level. In fact, NAFTA and other trade agreements Canada has signed — including the recent Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement with China — often take labour standards to the lowest denominator while increasing environmental risk. The agreements are more about facilitating corporate flexibility and profit than creating good working conditions and protecting the air, water, land and diverse ecosystems that keep us alive and healthy.

Naomi Klein Tells the UK: The Fracking 'Bridge' is Burning!

This post originally appeared on The Ecologist.

The lesson of fracking in the US and Canada is a simple one, writes Naomi Klein. The fracking industry is vicious, brutal and will stop at nothing to get its way.

British anti-frackers can celebrate this week's achievements - but the fight ahead will not be an easy one.

On a week-long trip to the UK last fall, I was struck by how quickly the push to open up the country to fracking has been escalating.

Thankfully, activists are mounting a vigorous and creative response, and are more than up to the task of galvanizing the public to put a stop to this mad dash to extract.

MPs Overwhelmingly Reject Moratorium on Fracking

Fracking lives to see another day in Britain as MPs overwhelmingly reject a proposal to place a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for shale gas.

A mere 52 MPs voted in favour of the amendment to the controversial Infrastructure Bill yesterday. The vote follows a report released earlier that day by the cross-party House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee calling for a ban on fracking due to the risks it poses to Britain’s efforts to tackle climate change.

The amendment was voted down by 308 MPs including the Under Secretary of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), Amber Rudd, and DECC Secretary of State, Ed Davey, demonstrating their steadfast support of the nascent industry in face of rapidly mounting public and political opposition.

MPs brand fracking 'incompatible' with UK climate targets

This post originally appeared on Carbon Brief.

Fracking should be banned because it is incompatible with the UK's climate targets, according to the cross-party House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC).

The  committee's report has been rushed out in advance of a series of parliamentary votes this afternoon on the government's  Infrastructure Bill. Ten MPs have tabled an  amendment to the bill that would ban fracking “in order to reduce the risk of carbon budgets being breached”.

This amendment also has cross-party support: it is backed by former Conservative environment secretary  Caroline Spelman along with two other Conservatives, five Labour MPs and one each for the Liberal Democrats and the Greens.

Federal Court Order: Explosive DOT-111 "Bomb Train" Oil Tank Cars Can Continue to Roll

A U.S. federal court has ordered a halt in proceedings until May in a case centering around oil-by-rail tankers pitting the Sierra Club and ForestEthics against the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). As a result, potentially explosive DOT-111 oil tank cars, dubbed “bomb trains” by activists, can continue to roll through towns and cities across the U.S. indefinitely.  

“The briefing schedule previously established by the court is vacated,” wrote Chris Goelz, a mediator for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. “This appeal is stayed until May 12, 2015, or pending publication in the Federal Register of the final tank car standards and phase out of DOT-111 tank cars, whichever occurs first.”

Order to Delay DOT-111 Bomb Trains Case
Image Credit: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Filing its initial petition for review on December 2, the Sierra Club/ForestEthics lawsuit had barely gotten off the ground before being delayed.


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