Study Links Gas Drilling to Heart Defects in Babies

newly-published study specific to Colorado (pdf) links the rate of congenital heart defects in babies to how close they live to natural gas wells.

The study, published January 28, 2014 in Environmental Health Perspectives, a publication of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, examined a large cohort of babies over an extended period of time – 124,842 births between 1996 and 2009 in rural Colorado.

Researchers discovered an association between the density and proximity of methane (“natural gas”) wells within a ten mile radius of the mothers' residences and the prevalence of heart defects, low birth weight and small-for-gestational age in newborns. Congenital heart defects are often associated with maternal exposure to toxins during gestation from sources like maternal smoking, alcohol abuse, exposure to solvents, benzene, toluene and petroleum-based solvents.

Low birth weight and pre-term births are associated with exposure to air pollutants, including volatile organic compounds, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter, all of which are emitted during natural gas production.

The authors restricted their study to people living in rural areas and towns in Colorado with populations under 50,000 to reduce the potential for exposure to other sources of pollution, like heavy traffic and pollution from other industries. The researchers compared results with births among mothers who live in control areas that do not have natural gas drilling nearby.

Study Details Dark Money Flowing to Climate Science Denial

Drexel University sociologist Robert Brulle's long-awaited, peer-reviewed study “Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations” was published Dec. 20 in the journal Climatic Change.

The Drexel press release, “Not Just the Koch Brothers: New Drexel Study Reveals Funders Behind the Climate Change Denial Effort” gives a quick introduction to the findings:

'This study marks the first peer-reviewed, comprehensive analysis ever conducted of the sources of funding that maintain the denial effort.
Through an analysis of the financial structure of the organizations that constitute the core of the countermovement and their sources of monetary support, Brulle found that, while the largest and most consistent funders behind the countermovement are a number of well-known conservative foundations, the majority of donations are 'dark money,' or concealed funding.”

“Funding has shifted to pass through untraceable sources. Coinciding with the decline in traceable funding, the amount of funding given to denial organizations by the Donors Trust has risen dramatically. Donors Trust is a donor-directed foundation whose funders cannot be traced. This one foundation now provides about 25% of all traceable foundation funding used by organizations engaged in promoting systematic denial of climate change.”

Of course, many recipients engage in numerous other actiivities outside the climate issue, and Brulle's study did not and could not address the percentage spent on climate change.  The clear message is that tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations that spread climate denial get huge sums of dark money, and we really do not yet know exactly how they spend it.

Brulle has provided DeSmogBlog with the 120-page Supplementary Material, with detailed financial data and explanations of the methodology. Figs 1-4 are attached below. Fig 3 shows how the DONORS TRUST money anonymizer has grown:

Growth of DONORS

Two Tweets and a Lie! Greenpeace Responds to Heartland Institute

From left: Heartland Institute president Joseph Bast, lawyer James Taylor and contracted pseudo-scientist Craig Idso.

From left: Heartland Institute president Joseph Bast, lawyer James Taylor and contracted pseudo-scientist Craig Idso. Crossposted from

As we've told the Heartland Institute directly through Twitter, their response to our new report on climate change denial, Dealing in Doubt, contains a series of lies that are tellingly consistent with the lies we document in the report itself. Here are some, but not all, of the silliest claims Heartland made in their response to us:

BP Launches Massive PR Campaign To Demonize Oil Spill Victims

BP, the oil giant that, along with Halliburton and Transocean, was responsible for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, is crying foul in the claims process of settlements for the victims of the spill.  The company has launched a massive public relations offensive to paint themselves as the victims in this situation.

According to The Hill, BP CEO Bob Dudley said recently that the entire claims process has been “absurd,” and that his company has been more than generous with their payments.  BP spokesperson Geoff Morrell said:  “While we remain committed to paying legitimate claims, we did not agree to pay for fictitious losses, or for claims that are based on fraud or tainted by corruption.”

While the overall PR war may appear to be aimed at the victims along the Gulf Coast, the real targets of BP’s campaign are trial lawyers.  They have even enlisted the help of the largest business lobby and strongest advocates for “tort reform”, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The Hill reports that a recent ad placed by BP in The Washington Post quoted National Association of Manufacturers CEO Jay Timmons, saying, “Too often these days, the tort system is nothing more than a trial-lawyer bonanza, and that’s not fair to individuals seeking redress and no way to encourage investment in manufacturing to create tomorrow’s high-paying jobs.”

The reason that the company is trying to paint the claims process as plagued with fraud is that they had underestimated the amount of claims that they would have to pay out, and their settlement fund is quickly running dry.  This means that subsequent payments will have to come directly out of the company’s profits, a move that is not sitting well with shareholders who were promised that the price tag would not exceed $8 billion

The Deadly Truth About Oil And Gas Industry Safety Standards

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.

Greenwashing the Tar Sands, Part 3: Wherein money trumps fact every time

This is last installment of a three-part series on greenwashing and the tar sands. Be sure to read Part 1, A Short History of Greenwashing the Tar Sands, and Part 2, Do As I Say, Not As I Do.

Recently, Canadian Oil Sands Chief Executive Officer Marcel Coutu explained to Bloomberg why he and other big shot oil executives have been lobbying U.S. politicians so hard for the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would ferry more than 800,000 barrels of tar sands crude to the Gulf Coast. Coutu had participated in a Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) lobbying junket in February, and another trip is being planned for this month.

The first reason is money. The Keystone XL pipeline is a vital component of the tar sands industry’s plans. Without it, it will be hard for Big Oil to double production of tar sands crude by 2020. With no way to transport the extra crude to markets in the U.S. and beyond, there would be no point in spending all that money to turn bitumen into a crude form of oil. This, Coutu said, has had a chilling effect on investment and share prices.

Canadian Oil Sands shares have risen just two per cent this year, while Cenovus’ have fallen seven percent and Imperial Oil’s are down 6.2 percent. Keystone XL, says Todd Kepler, a Calgary-based oil and gas analyst at Cormark Securities, would increase share prices for oil producers by as much as 20 per cent.

That's a big deal worth millions of dollars.

FOIA Facts 4 - George Mason Takes The Money And Breaks The Rules

New Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) replies (1, 2, and 3) expose worse misbehavior at George Mason University. GMU badly mishandled simple plagiarism complaints, including one on a Federally-funded paper, retracted in May 2011, finally ruled as misconduct in 2012. Federal rules required notifications to several agencies earlier, but FOIA requests found no trace of any: Army 1, Army 2, GMU 1, GMU 2. [05/31/15 As a result of this $2M lawsuit, the full report  is now online, but in May 2013, was sent as a formal complaint to Aurali Dade, GMU's AVP for Research Integrity and Assurance.]

GMU gets $129M+/year in Federal grant funds, generally takes 30% for itself, but breaks rules.

A Nature editorial criticized GMU's handling, the Chronicle of Higher Education covered the retraction, Science discussed the process. USA Today's Dan Vergano later wrote in February 2012:

''”We took these charges very seriously,” (GMU Provost Peter) Stearns said, in a telephone interview, adding that the university will forward the investigation reports to federal authorities. The National Institutes of Health and the Department of the Army supported the 2008 study.'

Stearns had already written falsehoods to his own faculty, as detailed in See No Evil, Speak Little Truth, Break Rules, Blame Others, §6. GMU has many respectable faculty members, but the GMU administration ran a bizarre process far outside academic norms, GMU's own rules and Federal rules.

Was this just total incompetence by the administration of a 32,000-student university? Or was some part played by the powerful influence at GMU of Charles Koch and his associates, as discussed in See No Evil §A.5, §A.6?

In any case, Edward Wegman was appointed in Fall 2012 to a 3-year term on the GMU College of Science Promotion and Tenure Committee.

Then, in February 2013 GMU modified its already-opaque and complaint-discouraging process to be even more so.

FOIA Facts 3 - More Plagiarism - Get Grants Or Claim Credit

Copy-Paste plagiarism, Wegman and Said

As a byproduct of FOIA Facts 1 and FOIA Facts 2, Ed Wegman or Yasmin Said are now alleged to have included plagiarism or falsification in 9 papers or talks associated with funding from the Army Research Organization (ARO grants 0447 or 0059) or the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA grant 5876), 2005-2009.
[05/31/15 The full report  is now online, as a result of this $2M lawsuit.]

Of 6 plagiarized works already reported to George Mason University (GMU), Elsevier retracted one. By FOIA, the other 5 had either been claimed for credit on grants or cited to support Said's grant proposal. Study of grant claims unearthed 2 more works with problems.

Finally, Wegman wrote a 2009 grant proposal for half a million dollars, but evidence shows about half the text was plagiarized. Although unconnected with Federal funding, plagiarism or falsification are alleged against 4 more works. Of 13 total works with problems, 7 involved both Wegman and Said, and 3 by each alone, so they cannot blame all this on grad students.

FOIA Facts 2 - No Pro Bono - Federal Funds Mis-Used For Wegman Report And Much More

Wegman's mis-use of Army funds, irrelevant work outweighed relevant

As begun in FOIA Facts 1, Ed Wegman and Rep. Joe Barton repeatedly called the Wegman Report “pro bono”* but Wegman and Said later claimed it as work done for existing Federal  grants paid quarterly.  In response to Dan Vergano FOIA request  Wegman and Said each said the work was pro bono, years after claiming for credit it and much other irrelevant work. Together, they “charged” 48 inappropriate works to grants they effectively treated as slush funds.

Wegman was funded by Army Research Office (ARO) grant 0447, $217K for “Analytical and Graphical Methods for Streaming Data with Applications to Netcentric Warfare.” He claimed credit for 75 papers and talks, listed in the thumbnail at left or full-sized in Sheet §0.1.

Dark blue shows fit (possibly relevant) papers, but almost all acknowledged earlier grants and were published or mostly done before 0447. Wegman improperly claimed them again in late 2008, perhaps because he had done so little new relevant work in peer-reviewed research journals. Ignoring them leaves just cyan (light blue) talks, outnumbered by grant-unfit works: green for alcoholism, red for attempts to discredit climate science and orange for miscellaneous others unrelated to his or Said's grants.

The chronology matches well - fit papers essentially vanished after 2005, as Wegman plunged into climate and worked on alcoholism with Said, who claimed the Wegman Report for her grant. A 91-page report on unfamiliar topics and Congressional hearings had to consume much more effort than anything else. Even by simple counts, more than half of each person's works were inappropriate, but the grant time spent inappropriately was almost certainly larger. 

Lamar Smith (R-TX) might want to investigate obvious funds misuse before trying to meddle with the National Science Foundation.

“Congress has a responsibility to review questionable research paid for by hard-working American taxpayers. … Public funds should be used to benefit the American people.”

FOIA Facts 1 - More Misdeeds By Ed Wegman, Yasmin Said, George Mason University

The Wegman Report was not pro bono, and George Mason violated Federal rules

05/20/15: The full report is now posted, as side-effect of $2M lawsuiit by Ed Wegman, Yasmin Said, Milton Johns.
New Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) replies have exposed more misdeeds by Professor Edward Wegman and Yasmin Said at George Mason University (GMU),  closely involved with the Kochs, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and many others known for attacks on climate science. This post reviews background and attaches FOIA files that unearthed evidence for:

-pervasive mis-use of Federal funds for inappropriate work,
-plagiarism* or falsification** in documents used to seek grants or credit,
-GMU violations of Federal rules for reporting misconduct, atop an already-absurd procedure.

Readers unfamiliar with the history might first read the background below the fold and then return here for a summary of the posts to follow in this series:

FOIA Facts 2 - Wegman and Said used existing grants from the Army Research Office and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism for efforts on the 2006 Wegman Report, showing “pro bono” claims made to Congress as false. That was not the only funds mis-use. Together, they claimed 48 inappropriate papers or talks, easily consuming more than half their effort. Grants of $492K produced attacks on climate science  and much foreign travel, but almost nothing in peer-reviewed research journals.

FOIA Facts 3 - More plagiarism and falsification are documented in 13 total works by Wegman and/or Said, including a few new ones and at least 7 claimed for grant credit. Wegman also wrote a half-million-dollar grant proposal, but evidence shows that roughly half the text was copy-paste-edit plagiarism. Luckily for Wegman, it was rejected.

FOIA Facts 4 exposes worse misbehavior at GMU, which badly mishandled simple plagiarism complaints, including one on a Federally-funded paper. That was retracted in May 2011 and finally ruled as misconduct in February 2012. Federal rules required multiple notifications to several agencies, but FOIA requests found no trace of them. GMU seemed to ignore Federal rules, but perhaps other funding and influence are more important.

In any case,  Wegman was appointed in Fall 2012 to a 3-year term on the GMU College of Science Promotion and Tenure Committee.


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