EPA

Fri, 2013-07-26 11:00Farron Cousins
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Industry Pressure Shuts Down EPA Fracking Investigations, Watch our Ring of Fire interview

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has spent countless taxpayer dollars and man-hours over the last few years investigating the environmental threats posed by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in many regions across the United States.  And when their draft reports showed that the practice was poisoning water supplies, the gas industry stepped in and immediately put a halt to the studies.

According to a new report by ProPublica, the EPA has halted several investigations into the safety of fracking operations in places like Texas, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming. 

Most recently, the EPA halted a study on the environmental impact of fracking in Pavillion, Wyoming.  The draft report of the study had been finished, but the gas industry intervened and questioned the validity of the study, so the EPA decided to back off and hand over the task of completing the study to the state of Wyoming.  The state will finish the investigation, but the funding will come from the natural gas drilling company EnCana.  Incidentally, EnCana is responsible for the pollution that the EPA was testing.

And it wasn’t that the EPA didn’t find anything that citizens should be concerned about; quite the opposite is true.  In spite of halting the study, the agency still told residents that they should not drink the water coming out of their taps, nor should they use it to bathe because of the chemicals that were found in the tap water. 

Wed, 2013-07-03 11:00Farron Cousins
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Obama's War On Coal Doesn’t Exist…Says Coal Lobby?

During the run-up to the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election, Republican candidate Mitt Romney ran ads and the party adopted as a platform the “war on coal” being waged by President Barack Obama.  While the platform failed when it came to securing votes for the Republican Party, it hasn’t stopped the GOP from re-launching the same talking points in the wake of President Obama’s recent climate change action speech.

Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner was one of the first to voice his concerns for the coal industry, saying that the President’s plan to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants would have a devastating impact on employment and the industry itself

Boehner has fallen into the “those who don’t understand history are doomed to repeat it” trap.  As it turns out, the coal industry and their lobbying groups have already admitted that the 2012 “war on coal” talking point was an abject failure.

A spokesman for the National Mining Association recently lamented the following in the industry publication “Coal Age” (courtesy of The Huffington Post):

Anyway, ‘war on coal’ never resonated with much conviction among ordinary Americans. For them, the EPA keeps the air and water clean, their kids safe. The Appalachian permits the EPA held up, the Spruce Mine permit the agency yanked, the regulatory standard it proposed to slow greenhouse gas emissions and stop new coal plant construction – all that flew over the head of most voters who, let’s face it, know far more about the Kardashians than they do about coal.

HuffPost goes on to note that the “war on coal” never really ended for the Republican Party:

Mon, 2013-07-01 10:36Steve Horn
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Two Major Lawsuits Filed Against ExxonMobil for Arkansas Tar Sands Spill

Two major lawsuits were recently filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas against ExxonMobil, the “private empire” behind the March 2013 Pegasus tar sands pipeline spill of over 1.1 million gallons of diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) into the neighborhoods and waterways of Mayflower, AR, located in Faulkner County

One is a class-action lawsuit filed by the Duncan Firm, Thrash Law Firm and Parker Waichman LLP on June 27. The other is a suit filed on June 13 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in concert with the Arkansas Attorney General's Office, led by AG Dustin McDaniel.

Collectively, both lawsuits lay out the damning facts of the second biggest tar sands pipeline spill in U.S. history, caused by a 22-foot gash in the pipeline, second only to Enbridge's “dilbit disaster” in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The cases also call for the spill's victims - both people, government bodies and the ecosystem - to receive reparations. 

Among other things, both suits clarify that ExxonMobil Pipeline Company dilbit has contaminated Lake Conway, the largest man-made game and fish commission lake*** in the United States, which serves as a tributary of the Arkansas River.

The class-action tort lawsuit slaps ExxonMobil with willful negligence under Arkansas state law, alleging Exxon knew Pegasus - built in the 1940's far before the age of “extreme energy” and designed to carry light crude - would spill at some point. The suit also reveals for the first time that the spill was just the biggest of 13 other spills preceding it, meaning it was not just a spill out of the blue.  

The joint EPA/Arkansas AG civil lawsuit cites Exxon for violating the Clean Water Act, Arkansas' Hazardous Waste Management Act and Arkansas' Water and Air Pollution Control Act.

Taken together, both suits keep the heat on ExxonMobil and on Alberta tar sands production at-large as the battle over the proposed northern half of TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline heats up. U.S. President Barack Obama's State Department is expected to make a decision on that pipeline's fate in the next few months. 

Mon, 2013-06-24 20:18Steve Horn
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Duke Study Links Fracking to Water Contamination As EPA Drops Study on Fracking Water Contamination

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) kicked the can down the road on a key study designated to examine the connection between hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and groundwater contamination in Pavillion, Wyoming. 

A study originally scheduled for release in 2014 and featured in Josh Fox's “Gasland 2,” it will not be complete until 2016 in a move that appears to be purely politically calculated by the Obama Administration, akin to the EPA's dropped and censored groundwater contamination study in Weatherford, TX.

Now, just days later, a damning study conducted by Duke University researchers published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences again links shale gas fracking to groundwater contamination. The Duke researchers did so by testing samples of 141 drinking water samples of Pennsylvania's portion of the Marcellus Shale basin. 

This is the Duke professor's third study linking fracking to groundwater contamination, the source of drinking water for hundreds of thousands of citizens in the Keystone State. The industry is likely to come out with the familiar chorus that the contaminated water is “naturally occuring,” but the latest Duke study shows otherwise. 

“They found that, on average, methane concentrations were six times higher and ethane concentrations were 23 times higher at homes within a kilometer of a shale gas well,” a Duke University press release explains. “Propane was detected in 10 samples, all of them from homes within a kilometer of drilling.”

Tue, 2013-04-23 15:37Ben Jervey
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EPA Again Slams State Department's Keystone XL Assessment as "Insufficient"

On Monday, the State Department’s public comment period closed for the Keystone XL pipeline draft environmental impact statement. Over one million comments were submitted by citizens opposed to the tar sands pipeline. Then came the most damning comment of them all: from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA submitted a letter faulting the State Department’s environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline for being “insufficient” and raising “Environmental Objections” to the project.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because the very same thing happened roughly two years ago, when the State Department was first assessing the proposed tar sands pipeline project.

In June of 2011, the EPA first wrote to criticize the draft environmental impact statement as “insufficient.”

That EPA letter certainly played a part – as did sustained grassroots advocacy efforts, exposes on conflicts of interest between State and the pipeline’s profiteers, and relentless debunking of false jobs and energy security promises – in the State Department’s move to punt the decision for a year, take a fresh look at the proposals, and go back to the drawing board to create a new supplemental environmental impact statement.

Sat, 2013-03-23 06:00Farron Cousins
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Pot Meet Kettle: Oil Executive Says “Misinformation And Fear” Hurting Fracking Efforts

Ryan Lance, CEO of oil giant ConocoPhillips, issued a dire warning to colleagues at an energy conference earlier this month.  According to Lance, “misinformation and fear” could easily derail the current financial boom that is taking place within the shale gas industry.

According to The Hill, Lance told those gathered at the conference that they need to actively engage with government officials to fix the problem.  From The Hill’s report:

Industry groups contend that concerns about fracking have been badly overstated and say the method is safe.

Lance accused critics of “creating fear” and touted steps he said the industry is taking on water conservation, disclosure of chemicals and other areas.

To address Lance’s first claim (fear and misinformation), the only misinformation being pushed out related to the safety of fracking is coming from the industry.  The best available research tells us that natural gas fracking activities have been linked to increased seismic activity, groundwater pollution, and abnormally higher concentrations of air pollution near fracking well sites.  The full list of dangers from fracking can be found in DeSmogBlog’s “Fracking The Future” report. 

But focusing on Lance’s claim that “misinformation and fear” are thwarting fracking operations misses another important statement from the CEO.  He also said that he and his colleagues in the industry are taking the initiative in being more transparent in disclosing the chemical cocktails being injected into the ground, as well as improvements in “other areas.”

Lance’s claim is at odds with the truth.  In fact, his company, ConocoPhillips, has helped lead the charge to prevent any form of disclosure.   While they have complied with state regulations that are beginning to require disclosure from shale gas companies, they have done only the bare minimum of reporting, and the majority of wells operated by both Conoco and the rest of the industry continue to skirt disclosure requirements

Mon, 2013-03-18 11:00Sharon Kelly
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Obama's Energy Strategy -- Too Little, Too Late?

A year ago, President Obama set forth his vision of America’s energy policy. “We need an energy strategy for the future,” he said in a message still prominently displayed on the White House website, “an all-of-the-above strategy for the 21st century that develops every source of American-made energy.”

During the presidential debates, he hammered repeatedly an “all of the above” theme, though he also surprised many by making a strong statement about the urgency of confronting climate change during his second term.

This week, President Obama once more talked about his “all the above” strategy as he announced that he was setting aside $2 billion for research and development on alternative transportation fuels.

Things are looking up for renewable energy, right? Not so fast.

Obama's choice for new directors of the three agencies with the most relevance to climate change – the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy and the Department of the Interior — do not sew confidence that real change is coming.

Thu, 2013-03-07 05:00Farron Cousins
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EPA Accused Of Blocking Scientific Advancement of Corexit In BP Cleanup

Oil Spill Eater International (OSEI), through the Gulf Oil Spill Remediation Conference group, issued a press release this week saying that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) effectively blocked or otherwise delayed scientific advancement in the cleanup of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil disaster by refusing to acknowledge the toxicity of the oil dispersant Corexit.

According to OSEI, the EPA is guilty of violations to the Clean Water Act because they knowingly used the toxic dispersant instead of opting for cleaner, less toxic methods of oil spill cleanup.

OSEI is actually not off base with their accusations.  Reports from late 2012 revealed that using oil dispersants like Corexit make oil spills less visible, but when combined with the oil, create a mixture that is 52 times more toxic than the oil itself.  The studies revealed that even in small amounts, the combination of oil and Corexit reduced the number of egg hatchings in small marine invertebrates by 50%.  These are small creatures like krill, shrimp, and other crustaceans that form the bottom of the oceanic food pyramid.

Those results were just from small doses of the mixture.  And as I wrote in 2011, the amount of Corexit dumped into the Gulf was anything but “small”:

Sun, 2013-03-03 12:00Farron Cousins
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The Environmental Impact Of The Sequester Cuts

The failure of elected officials in Washington, D.C. to reach a deal on the “sequester” led to an automatic $85 billion cut to the federal budget on March 1st.  And, unfortunately, environmental initiatives and other projects were the first to be placed on the chopping block.

Environmental programs within the United States – everything from wildlife refuges to clean air and water programs – have already been grossly underfunded for years, and the sequester cuts are only going to make things much, much worse for our environment.

One program that was gearing up to be cut less than 24 hours after sequester took effect was the Bureau of Labor Statistics green jobs survey.  This program allowed the administration to track the creation and tally of jobs within the clean energy and other “green” sectors, a program that many Republicans in Washington had wanted to cut from day one. 

But those cuts are just the beginning.  Energy Secretary Steven Chu said that the mandatory cuts are going to severely hurt investment and research into lightweight automobile construction and fuel cell technology, investments that were aimed at helping increase automobile fuel efficiency and reducing our gasoline consumption.  Those programs will now have to wait to receive funding.

Chu said that the cuts the Energy Department is facing would significantly slow down the country’s quest to become energy independent, a goal that 64% of Americans (from both sides of the political aisle) favor.

Tue, 2013-02-19 08:00Guest
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The Resurgence of an Evolving Climate Movement, Part 2

Ken Wu is executive director of Majority for a Sustainable Society (MASS) and co-founder of the Ancient Forest Alliance

For Part 1 of this article, click here.

In the first part of this article, I described what specific challenges the climate movement faces when confronting its own limiting tendencies as well as industry funded public relations campaigns. In this second part I outline what I think are four essential ways the climate movement must evolve in order to overcome these obstacles.

FIRST, we must become a lot more political, in the sense that it’s fundamentally the laws, policies, and agreements that shape our greater society and economy. And it’s our society and economy which are the foundations of our personal lifestyles. What is available, affordable, practical, and possible in our lifestyles is largely a product of the society in which we live – what clean energy sources exist at what price relative to dirty energy, how available public transit is, how well or poorly our cities are designed for walking, cycling, and accessing our needs, how energy efficient our buildings are, and so on.  

No individual is an island unto himself; the way we live is fundamentally shaped by the economy and society in which our lifestyles are nested.  

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