Water Pollution Trading Programs Under Fire as Report Finds Lax Oversight, "Shell Games" Put Waterways at Risk

A little-noticed federally-backed program is chipping away at the foundation of the Clean Water Act, one of the nation's core environmental laws, allowing major polluters to evade responsibility for contaminating rivers, streams and other waterways, an environmental group said in a report released Thursday.

So called “water quality trading” programs have quietly spread into more than 20 states, the report said, with a goal of establishing a water pollution credit trading market — essentially a cap-and-trade system, like those controversially proposed for climate change, but covering the dumping of pollutants like nitrogen and phosphorus into America's waterways.

Those nutrients are behind algae blooms that suck oxygen out of water supplies, killing fish and other wildlife and sometimes making people sick. The EPA calls nutrient pollution “one of America's most widespread, costly and challenging environmental problems” and warns that the hazards are likely to grow worse as the climate warms.

Programs to trade credits for nutrient pollution are still relatively small scale, but have gained the backing of the Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Department of Agriculture. They are based on the idea that a free market can help identify the cheapest ways to cut pollution in a watershed.

As CO2 Levels Rise, Obama Still All Talk And No Action

President Obama is once again talking out of both sides of his mouth with regard to the need to protect the environment.

After joining Facebook last week, the President used his very first video post to address the issue of climate change. The President said in the video: “Now, we've made a lot of progress to cut carbon pollution here at home, and we're leading the world to take action as well. But we’ve got to do more. In a few weeks, I’m heading to Paris to meet with world leaders about a global agreement to meet this challenge.”

While the President’s detractors attacked him for believing something so foolish, the people who have been paying attention to Obama’s actions in recent years have an entirely different, and legitimate, reason to question the President’s message. Namely, President Obama has done very little to fulfill his lofty promises about tackling climate change.

Yes, we got a rule from the EPA to limit emissions from coal-fired power plants. Yes, the Keystone XL pipeline has been rejected (for now.) And yes, we finally have a President of the United States that both accepts the science of climate change and believes that we should do something about it. But that’s roughly where the accomplishments end.

"Abandoned" by EPA, Landowers from Dimock, Pavillion, Parker County Demand Inclusion in EPA National Fracking Study

For the past five years, the EPA has undertaken a highly-consequential national study on the impacts that hydraulic fracturing (fracking) can have on American drinking water supplies.

The agency will look to the results of this program as the basis for its scientific conclusions and recommendations on hydraulic fracturing,” EPA said in a 2013 statement.

This June, the national study's draft assessment was released to the public, and while hundreds of spills, accidents, and even cases where fracking itself directly contaminated underground aquifers (a method of pollution that the oil industry had long argued had never happened) were reported by EPA, it was a phrase from the agency's press release that drew the attention of the national media: “hydraulic fracturing activities in the U.S. are carried out in a way that have not led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources.”

Millenials Urge Climate Action, Could Sway 2016 Election

In the United States, we have yet to enact a single piece of national legislation to address climate change. And the group that will be most effected by this lack of action, Millenials, are fed up with the lack of action in America.

According to a new report by NextGen Climate, young voters are increasingly concerned about the threats of climate change and more than 70% of them favor severe cuts to U.S. carbon emissions and a switch to clean, renewable energy.

Harvard Study Finds Renewable Energy Is Responsible For Millions In Health Benefits

The displacement of fossil fueled electricity, especially coal-fired power plants, by renewable energy technologies is just as good for public health as it is for the climate, Harvard researchers say. 

In a new report published in the journal Nature Climate Change, researchers from Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health write that regional health benefits worth hundreds of millions of dollars per year are attributable to renewable energy and efficiency projects.  

Wall Street Warns About Cost Of Doing Nothing On Climate Change

As President Obama heads to the Arctic to discuss climate change, just mere weeks after approving Shell Oil’s bid to drill for oil in the treacherous Chukchi Sea, a very different group is sounding the alarm over the dangers of a warming climate. That group, surprisingly, is Wall Street bankers.

Citibank has released a new report showing that taking action now against the growing threat of climate change would save an astonishing $1.8 trillion by the year 2040. Conversely, the report says that if no action is taken, the economy will lose as much as $44 trillion during that same time period.

The Dark Money Funding Climate Change Denial

The network of corporate-funded right wing think tanks in America is massive. The money that flows to these organizations is even more massive than the networks themselves, and it flows in almost total secrecy thanks to Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund.

These think tanks and astroturf groups are the leaders in climate change denial, spreading misinformation and corrupt data to the masses in order to downplay — and in many cases flat out deny — the reality of anthropogenic climate change.

And though we may not have the names of individual donors, a new report from The Guardian does a great job of laying out how much money is flowing to these climate change denial groups.

Has "King Coal" Been De-Throned?

The coal industry is dying, and they are desperately trying to place the blame for their impending doom on someone other than themselves. The world around them is changing, and the industry is absolutely terrified of change.

Shell, ENI Responsible for 550 Oil Spills In Nigeria Last Year

Late last year, it came to light that Shell had been warned repeatedly by its own staff that the Trans Niger Pipeline was at significant risk of failure well before a 2008 spill of 500,000 barrels of oil. It was also revealed that Shell had drastically understated the extent of the spill.

These revelations were made during the proceedings of a lawsuit brought by a group of 15,000 Nigerians over a second spill from the same pipeline and helped lead to a much heftier payment by the company to the Bodo community in the Niger Delta in compensation for the impacts of both spills.

It would appear that the company has still not managed to correct whatever problems are leading to its poor safety and environmental performance in Nigeria, however, as Shell was responsible for more than 200 oil spills in the country last year alone, according to a new report by Amnesty International.

As horrible as Shell’s record is, Italian oil giant ENI managed to outdo the Hague-based multinational oil and gas titan. ENI's operations caused nearly 350 spills last year even though it operates in a much smaller area, the report states.

“These figures are seriously alarming. ENI has clearly lost control over its operations in the Niger Delta. And despite all its promises, Shell has made no progress on tackling oil spills,” Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Global Issues Director, said in a statement.

“In any other country, this would be a national emergency. In Nigeria it appears to be standard operating procedure for the oil industry. The human cost is horrific — people living with pollution every day of their lives.”

Fossil Fuel Industry Funds Study That Concludes Fossil Fuel Divestment Is A Bad Idea

As of September 2014, 181 institutions and local governments as well as 656 individual investors representing more than $50 billion in assets had pledged to join the growing fossil fuel divestment movement, which seeks to take investments away from the oil, gas and coal companies that are cooking our atmosphere and reinvest that money in the development of a low-carbon economy.

This has, understandably, caused quite a bit of alarm amongst the fossil fuel set.

Enter Daniel Fischel, chairman and president of economic consulting firm Compass Lexecon, who recently published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal called “The Feel-Good Folly of Fossil-Fuel Divestment” in which he discussed the findings of a forthcoming report that “indicates that fossil-fuel divestment could significantly harm an investment portfolio.”

Fischel goes out of his way to appear to have the interests of the poor universities called on to divest at heart: “Every bit of economic and quantitative evidence available to us today shows that the only entities punished under a fossil-fuel divestment regime are the schools actually doing the divesting,” he concludes.

You had to get past the WSJ’s paywall and then read to the bottom of the piece before you got to the most salient point: “The report discussed in this op-ed, ‘Fossil Fuel Divestment: A Costly and Ineffective Investment Strategy,’ was financed by the Independent Petroleum Association of America.”


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