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Sat, 2011-12-10 07:15Farron Cousins
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North American Air Pollution Statistics Will Take Your Breath Away

Two separate reports released this week offer a grim look at the state of air quality in North America. The continent already produces 6% of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from power plants, resulting in an array of health and environmental problems.

According to a joint report by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), EarthJustice, and the Sierra Club, the situation in America is getting worse. Their report rated the top 5 worst states for toxic power plant emissions. Some of the chemicals used to rank the states’ emission status included chromium, arsenic, lead, and mercury. These represent four of the most toxic heavy metals found in power plant emissions.

The report, titled “AMERICA’S TOP POWER PLANT TOXIC AIR POLLUTERS listed the 5 worst states as follows:

Pennsylvania (#1 rankings for arsenic and lead)
Ohio (#2 rankings for mercury and selenium)
Indiana (#4 rankings for chromium and nickel)
Kentucky (#2 for arsenic)
Texas (#1 rankings for mercury and selenium)

This report comes as the U.S. EPA is working on new standards for power plant emissions. The agency is under a court order to establish new emission standards, but action on air pollution standards has stalled, thanks to an attempt by the Republican-controlled Congress to strip the EPA of their court-granted authority to regulate air pollution.

Mon, 2011-11-14 12:16Carol Linnitt
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New Report: CCPA and the Wilderness Committee on BC's "Reckless" Desire to Frack

If British Columbia wants to pursue economic, environmental and human health then the province must slow its furious pace of unconventional gas production, says a new report released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) and the Wilderness Committee. The CAPP report, part of their partner Climate Justice Project with the University of British Columbia, concludes that BC’s natural gas sector is putting the industry’s needs before those of British Columbians, and doing so with the government’s help.

Ben Parfitt of the CCPA authored the report and has written extensively on the energy/water nexus surrounding BC’s shale gas boom. According to Parfitt, “BC’s shale gas production is the natural gas equivalent of Alberta’s oilsands oil.” The comparison is due to the tremendous water required to frack deep shale deposits, an extraction process that also releases dangerous amounts of methane, one of the most powerful global warming gasses.
 
As expanded in the report, Fracking Up Our Water, Hydro Power and Climate: BC’s Reckless Pursuit of Shale Gas, the unconventional gas industry enjoys exclusive access to the province’s pristine water resources and the government’s lax greenhouse gas (GHG) policy. Last year, the Pacific Institute for Climate Studies (PICS) announced that if BC wants to meet its climate targets, the regulatory regimes surrounding unconventional gas production must become significantly more strict and forward thinking. But despite such a warning, no meaningful administrative changes have been made to suggest the BC government is listening.
Thu, 2011-11-03 17:31Farron Cousins
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Fracking Linked To Earthquakes In The U.S.

On the heels of yesterday’s report detailing Cuadrilla Resource’s admission that their fracking practices were responsible for small earthquakes in the U.K., new reports are surfacing that link fracking to earthquakes that occurred in January in Oklahoma. According to a new study by the Oklahoma Geological Survey [PDF], fracking is linked to 50 mini-earthquakes that occurred on January 18, 2011 in Oklahoma.

The NRDC describes the events as follows:

The occurrence of so-called “induced seismicity” – seismic activity caused by human actions – in conjunction with fluid injection or extraction operations is a well-documented phenomenon. However, induced earthquakes large enough to be felt at the surface have typically been associated with large scale injection or withdrawal of fluids, such as water injection wells, geothermal energy production, and oil and gas production. It was generally thought that the risk of inducing large earthquakes through hydraulic fracturing was very low, because of the comparatively small volumes of fluid injected and relatively short time-frame over which it occurs. As the controversy over hydraulic fracturing has heated up, however, researchers and the public have become increasingly interested in the potential for fracking to cause large earthquakes.

But this is hardly a new phenomenon. Studies show that fracking practices in the 1970s had caused similar seismic activity in Oklahoma, according to E&E News.

To date, none of the quakes have caused any deaths or any significant damages, but Grist echoed a great point from Joe Romm: “Would we tolerate this sort of impact from any other sort of industry? Would we tolerate it from a renewable energy industry? The answer there is no.”

As the pressure heats up over fracking, these seismic events will certainly become a cause for concern, and possibly even litigation, for citizens who are already unhappy with fracking activities occurring in their backyards.

Wed, 2011-11-02 12:02Farron Cousins
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UK Fracking Company Takes Partial Responsibility For Earthquakes

U.K.-based energy company Cuadrilla Resources** has finally admitted that their hydraulic fracturing activities were likely to blame for a series of small earthquakes that shook areas of Britain around fracking sites earlier this year. The company was the only energy company in the U.K. that used fracking to extract natural gas until the entire practice was put on hold in late Spring while the company and government officials investigated the cause of the earthquakes.

Cuadrilla claims in a new report that the earthquakes that occurred in April and May of this year were caused by an “unusual combination” of both geology and their fracking activities. However, they’ve assured officials that such a combination, and resulting earthquakes, were not likely to happen again. The Associated Press said, “But the report estimated that in the 'unlikely scenario,' that fracking kicked off another tremor, its maximum magnitude would be about 3 – meaning it would probably barely be felt if at all.”

DeSmogBlog covered the earthquakes earlier this year:

One earthquake occurred in April and measured a 2.3 on the Richter scale, and another occurred last week measuring 1.5 in magnitude. Both quakes happened at the same time and in the same location where the Cuadrilla Resources energy company was actively fracking gas wells. No significant damage was reported from either earthquake.

The British Geological Survey suggests that the earthquakes are a result of fracking, as gas and oil drilling has been known to cause small earthquakes in other areas of the world.

Fracking operations in the U.K. remain suspended as government officials continue investigating the earthquakes and review Cuadrilla’s report.

**DeSmogBlog contributor Graham Readfearn points out that Cuadrilla is 55 per cent owned by an Australian company, Lucas

Wed, 2011-09-14 15:02Farron Cousins
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Deepwater Horizon Still A Massive Headache For BP

The problems facing BP along the Gulf Coast continue to pile up. After more than a year of investigations, the U.S. Coast Guard has finally released their long-awaited assessment of last year’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion. Their conclusion was that the ultimate blame for the disaster rests squarely on BP’s shoulders.

The new report, put together by The Coast Guard-Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), was among the most exhaustive investigations to date, according to Reuters. The report claims that the decisions made by BP in the days before the rig explosion are what led to the catastrophe. Among those were BP’s decision to ignore the safeguarding of the cement plug, and the oil company’s decision to only use one type of cement to seal the well. The report also said that the location that BP chose for the casing was very poor, making it difficult to access in an emergency.

The new report does lay some blame at the feet of other companies involved, including Transocean and Halliburton, but they said that at the end of the day, BP was in charge of the decision-making process, and therefore they are the responsible party. This is a far cry from a recent report by Marshall Islands investigators, who recently pinned the blame for the disaster on the rig workers themselves, rather than the companies involved in the rig’s management. The new report is on par with other reports that also put most of the blame on BP.

Mon, 2011-08-22 13:03Farron Cousins
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Is Deepwater Horizon Rig Owner Trying To Blame Victims For Gulf Oil Disaster?

A new report released by authorities in the Marshall Islands says that the failure of oil rig workers to properly address safety issues led to last year’s catastrophic blowout and explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. The Deepwater Horizon was registered in the Marshall Islands by rig owner Transocean. Much like large ships, oil rigs are often registered in overseas territories for tax purposes.

The Marshall Islands report is one of the first to explicitly put the blame for the disaster on workers rather than the companies involved – BP, Transocean, Halliburton, and Cameron International. While the new report is not the first to claim that communications broke down in the moments leading up to the Deepwater Horizon explosion, it is the first to place the blame mostly on the backs of the people who did everything in their power to avert the disaster, while only casually mentioning the fact that BP’s actions and those of the other companies with a stake in the rig might have also helped cause the disaster.

Wed, 2011-07-27 11:49Farron Cousins
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Mountaintop Removal Mining Directly Linked To 60,000 Cancer Cases In Appalachia

A new study from the Journal of Community Health concludes that cancer rates in areas of Appalachia where mountaintop removal mining (MTR) is taking place are more than twice as high as areas that are not near MTR sites. According to the study, as many as 60,000 individual cancer cases can be linked directly to exposure from MTR debris.

As reported on Alternet, the study was the first of its kind to involve a door-to-door questionnaire, where researchers used community members’ own stories and medical records to determine the results. These door-to-door interviews were conducted in mountaintop removal mining areas, as well as non-coal mining counties for use as a control.

Mon, 2011-07-25 17:46Farron Cousins
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Coal Ash Ponds Contaminating Groundwater In Tennessee

TVA Kingston Coal Ash Spill credit-Greenpeace

The Inspector General of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) released a new report showing that coal ash holding sites at several TVA-owned coal-fired power plants has managed to contaminate groundwater. The report says that chemical concentrations are so high in certain areas that they could pose a serious health risk to residents. Among the chemicals that the Inspector General’s report lists as being found in the water supply were arsenic, cadmium, beryllium, selenium, and vanadium.

While the chemicals found in the water supply show that there is a serious threat to local communities coming from the coal ash repositories, that isn’t the most disturbing part of the report. The real problem is that the TVA knew about the chemicals being leaked into the water supply for at least a decade, and did nothing. The report says that the TVA had found chemicals indicating coal ash leaks in areas in and around Memphis, as well as other sites across Tennessee.

Mon, 2011-07-11 09:40Farron Cousins
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Expert Warns That TransCanada's Keystone XL Pipeline Assessments Are Misleading

An independent analysis performed by University of Nebraska professor Dr. John Stansbury, an environmental engineer, claims that TransCanada’s safety assessments for their proposed Keystone XL pipeline are misleading and based on faulty information. The Keystone XL pipeline would carry crude oil from Alberta, Canada to Texas, crossing numerous states in the U.S.

TransCanada, the company hoping to build the pipeline, was required under the Clean Water Act to conduct a complete review and present their data on worst-case-scenario oil spills from their proposed pipeline. According to his new report titled “Keystone XL Worst-Case Spills Study,” Dr. Stansbury’s analysis of TransCanada’s government reports found that their methodology for determining the safety of their pipeline was inherently flawed because the company deliberately relied on information that was known to be false.

Fri, 2011-06-17 04:45Farron Cousins
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Pentagon Releases New Clean Energy Strategy

The U.S. Department of Defense has released a new strategy for how the U.S. military will address growing concerns over energy consumption. The military remains the single largest consumer of energy in the world, and accounts for 1% of total consumption in the United States. As concerns continue to mount over oil prices and the instability of oil-rich countries in the Middle East, the Pentagon is looking for new methods to continue to meet the energy demands of the military.

The U.S. military currently relies on fossil fuels for almost all of their energy needs, spending more than $13 billion annually just on fuel. Military operations accounted for 121 million barrels of oil alone, which does not include the amount used for domestic activities such as military housing operations and transports. But the Department of Defense has known for years that their current path is not sustainable, and raised the alarm over peak oil long before the U.S. Department of Energy. Their new report shows that they are actively working to switch to renewable energy sources, and away from dirty oil sourced from unstable parts of the globe.

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