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.
It's a classic case of the government's left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. Days after the Bureau of Land Management issued new federal rules for fracking on federal land, relying heavily on an industry-run site called FracFocus, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a study mainly noteworthy for the shortcomings of the site that it revealed.
More than 70 percent of the chemical disclosure statements that drillers posted on FracFocus between January 2011 and February 2013 were missing key information because drillers labeled that data “confidential business information,” the EPA reported.
On average, drillers reported using a mix of 14 different chemicals at each well site. At sites where information was withheld, an average of five chemicals were not named.
In fact, FracFocus allowed drillers to conceal the identity of more than one out of every ten chemicals whose use was “disclosed” on the site, EPA researchers found.
This made it impossible for EPA's researchers, who received over 39,000 disclosure statements from FracFocus in March 2013 and published their study two years later, to definitively say what chemicals drillers used most often, how much of each chemical was injected underground, or even to simply create a list of all the chemicals used at the wells.
As of January 26, the California Department of Water Resources reported that snowpack statewide was at just 27% of its normal level, which is 15% of the average for April 1, the point at which snow is typically expected to stop accumulating and begin to melt.
Which means, of course, that California is in for another dry year. Melting snowpack provides water to streams and rivers and replenishes reservoirs that are used for drinking water and agriculture.
In a cruel irony, a dry year also means more fossil fuels will have to be burned for electricity to make up for the shortfall in hydropower generation. And burning more fossil fuels will, of course, pump even more greenhouse gases into our atmosphere, making global warming worse.
In addition to being the hottest year on record in California, 2014 was also the third year of extreme drought in the state, which scientists tell us is a telltale sign that global warming is already impacting our lives right here and right now.
After years of ignoring the dangers of the oil dispersant Corexit, the Environmental Protection Agency has finally decided to enact stricter standards for how dispersants are used during offshore oil spills… Sort of.
According to Truth-Out reporter Dahr Jamail, the EPA has proposed a slew of new standards that would better govern the use of dispersants for future spills. But, as Jamail points out, American doctors and scientists are concerned that the agency is not doing enough to protect the public and the environment from the dangers of the dispersants:
Robert Mathis, an M.D. and doctor of environmental medicine in Santa Barbara, California, described how several of the chemical ingredients of the dispersants that are regularly used on oil spills remain unknown because they are “trade secrets,” but that even the known chemicals in the dispersant cocktails are extremely dangerous to humans; they contain an “emulsifier that allows chemicals deeper penetration into tissues and cells.”
“Dispersants disrupt both bacterial and human cell membranes,” Mathis explained. “Damage disrupts cell functions, leading to cell failure, and may cause cancers and death. All living things are damaged, including groundwater.”
The new guidelines proposed by the agency would give the public broader access to the rules that govern the use of dispersants, the available dispersants for the type of spill, and the risks of using each particular dispersant, sometimes including a list of ingredients.
While governments all over the globe continue to squabble about how to address greenhouse gas pollution – or, in some instances, whether or not to even address the issue – a new report delivers some much needed good news: Reducing greenhouse gas emissions will save lives.
The report, titled Health Co-Benefits of Carbon Standards for Existing Power Plants, breaks the regulatory debate being waged in the United States in its simplest form. Researchers from Harvard University, Boston University, and Syracuse University state in the report that the Environmental Protection Agency’s stricter standards for existing power plants will save an estimated 9 American lives per day.
As the report lays out, the EPA’s emission reduction standards – the first effort ever by the agency to reduce power plant emissions – would reduce the amount of emissions by 30% below 2005 standards by the year 2030. These power plants account for nearly 40% of the total carbon emissions for the United States.
The 30% drop in emissions will save an estimated 3,500 American lives every year. But that is just the tip of the iceberg, according to the report. An additional 1,000 hospital stays could also be avoided, along with reduced levels of sulfur dioxide, toxic mercury, and fine particulates in the air that we breathe.
This week, a United Nations panel on climate change issued one of its most urgent warnings to date, explaining that unless major changes to greenhouse gas emissions are made within the next few years, it will become extraordinarily difficult to ward off the worst impacts of climate change.
“We cannot afford to lose another decade,” Ottmar Edenhofer, a German economist and co-chairman of the committee, told The New York Times.
With the time to cut emissions running out, the Obama administration has seized upon the hope that greenhouse gasses can be cut dramatically by switching from coal to natural gas, because gas gives off half as much carbon dioxide as coal when it’s burned. Indeed, when the EPA published its annual greenhouse gas inventory this Tuesday, it credited a switch from coal to natural gas with helping to cut carbon emissions nationwide.
But a new scientific paper, also published Tuesday in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences, further upends the notion that the current shale gas drilling rush is truly helping the U.S. cut its total greenhouse gas emissions.
In fact, the evidence suggests, the Obama administration has understated the full climate impacts of natural gas, focusing too much on only carbon dioxide and failing to take into account another key greenhouse gas: methane.
The paper, the first to directly measure methane plumes above natural gas drilling sites in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale, recorded methane leaks far more powerful than EPA estimates. Methane is especially important because its global warming effects are at their strongest during the first 20 years after it enters the atmosphere — in other words, during the small window of time identified as crucial by the U.N.’s climate panel.
There’s no denying that Texas is the state that dirty energy built. It remains the single largest source of domestically produced oil in the United States, and currently has more fracking wells than any other state. With an abundant supply of dirty energy money, the state government of Texas is completely owned by the dirty energy industry.
This trifecta of industry domination is playing itself out in southern Texas, in what has become a no man's land for federal regulators.
According to a new report by Earthworks, energy companies drilling in the Eagle Ford Shale basin are wreaking havoc on both the environment and the people, and federal regulators have essentially abandoned the area. This exodus of oversight has led to an increase in environmental abuses by the dirty energy industry.
But it wasn’t always this way in Texas. According to Earthworks, regulators have been present in the area, and even carried out some needed investigations into the damage caused by drillers.
But what the regulators found was so horrible that they had to evacuate themselves, and that was the last that residents in the area heard from them.
A new report delivers a dire warning to employees in the oil and gas industries: Your job could be the death of you. According to recently released statistics from 2012, on the job deaths in the oil and gas industries spiked by a staggering 23% last year, a larger increase than any other employment sector in the United States.
U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said that the amount of deaths within the industry was “unacceptable.” In 2012, according to labor statistics, there were 138 on the job deaths in the oil and gas industry, which is an increase from the 112 deaths that occurred in the prior year. This is a stark contrast to all industries, as the total number of worker deaths across the board decreased last year.
The trend in oil and gas industry deaths is nothing new. Between 2003 and 2010, the industry had the highest death toll in the United States, beating out all other industries for worker deaths. The majority of these deaths are due to workers being struck by equipment, struck by vehicles, and occasionally a major catastrophic accident, like the BP refinery explosion in Texas in 2005, and the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in 2010.
Coal industry executives ought to pay attention to the lead paint lawsuit currently happening in the California court system.
Recently, a lawsuit was filed against the makers of lead paint, alleging that the industry knew about the toxicity of their product and yet still promoted it as “safe” to the public. The industry has faced many lawsuits over their products in the past, most of which were unsuccessful for the victims, due to the fact that the industry was often up front about the dangers of their products, and they funded public studies to determine the health effects.
But things have changed in the American legal system, and attorneys are now taking a page out of the tobacco litigation playbook. By unearthing documents that detail the lead paint industry’s attempted cover-up of the dangers, they avoid the “buyer beware” caveat that the tobacco industry used for so long.
And just like the tobacco industry, lead paint manufacturers were specifically targeting children with their ads. The California lawsuit is making that a central part of the trial. Also reminiscent of the tobacco litigation, the suit was filed by cities and municipalities, not individual victims, greatly increasing the chance for success.
The coal industry should be paying very close attention to the progress of this litigation, as their activities could become the next target of skilled attorneys. For decades, the coal industry has been poisoning American citizens with their coal-mining, -burning and -dumping activities. Additionally, the dismal working conditions for miners has cost many families an unnecessary loss of life.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently released a report detailing the many ways in which expanded oil exploration and drilling in federally protected areas would not yield an overall economic benefit for the United States. The CBO report says that the revenue generated by these operations would take too long to come to fruition, and that our current areas of drilling are where the real money is in this situation.
But the dirty energy industry will never go down without a fight, so they had their friends at the Institute for Energy Research (IER) fund a study that showed that the CBO was way off the mark with their estimates. IER has received funding from both Exxon and Koch Industries.