EPA's National Study into Fracking Narrowed as Key Goals Fall by Wayside Due to Industry Pressure

In 2010, when Congress tasked the EPA with launching a national study of the risks posed by hydraulic fracturing, environmentalists were cautiously optimistic.

“At least the EPA is paying attention,” Don Young, founder of Fort Worth Citizens Against Neighborhood Drilling Operations told the Christian Science Monitor in 2010. 

And for a while, there seemed to be strong signs that the EPA planned to conduct a rigorous investigation. At the outset, the agency's plans included investigations into public health impacts, air pollution, well failures, run-off, and a range of other harms associated with the shale drilling rush.

And into 2011, EPA withstood intense pressure from the shale gas industry and its supporters in Congress to sharply narrow the scope of their research, and in particular to focus exclusively on one part of the process, the actual frac job, rather than to look at the full range of impacts from shale oil and gas extraction.

But at the same time, the goals of the national study were drastically narrowed. Plans, for example, to model the hazards potentially posed by dumping radioactive fracking wastewater at sewage treatment plants — essentially flushing it down the drain and allowing it to enter rivers only partially treated, as was common in Pennsylvania at the time — were slashed from the study.

That industry pressure has continued in the years since, and over time, EPA has indeed dramatically lowered its ambitions and limited the scope of its research, leaving only a small fraction of the original study standing, based on a review by DeSmog of internal EPA documents and emails.

Internal Documents Reveal Extensive Industry Influence Over EPA's National Fracking Study

In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched an ambitious and highly consequential study of the risks that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, poses to American drinking water supplies.

This is about using the best possible science to do what the American people expect the EPA to do – ensure that the health of their communities and families are protected,” Paul Anastas, Assistant Administrator for the agency's Office of Research and Development, said in 2011.

But the EPA's study has been largely shaped and re-shaped by the very industry it is supposed to investigate, as energy company officials were allowed to edit planning documents, insisted on vetting agency contractors, and demanded to review federal scientist's field notes, photographs and laboratory results prior to publication, according to a review by DeSmog of over 3,000 pages of previously undisclosed emails, confidential draft study plans and other internal documents obtained through open records requests.

Company officials imposed demands so infeasible that the EPA ultimately dropped a key goal of the research, their plans to measure pollution levels before and after fracking at two new well sites, the documents show.

All told, the documents raise serious questions about the study's credibility and they highlight a certain coziness between the EPA and Chesapeake Energy, one of the most aggressive oil and gas companies in the shale gas rush.

“[Y]ou guys are part of the team here,” one EPA representative wrote to Chesapeake Energy as they together edited study planning documents in October 2013, “please write things in as you see fit”.

Chesapeake took them up on the offer.

How Can Cameron Stop Fracking Causing Earthquakes? Easy. Change the Definition of Fracking..

David Cameron’s government has snuck a new definition of fracking onto the statute books  allowing hydraulic fracturing for shale gas to take place outside the new regulatory regime. 

Cuadrilla’s exploratory fracking, which caused two earthquakes in 2011 at Preese Hall in Lancashire, would not be classified as hydraulic fracturing under the new official definition set out in the controversial Infrastructure Act

Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace UK said: “The shift in fracking definition illustrates again how desperate Government is to get fracking moving despite the problems and opposition.”

DeSmog UK is the first to report on how the government appears to have rendered its own regulation of fracking useless, as the late changes made to the Infastructure Bill have gone unnoticed.

Was Shell the First Big Oil Company to Publicly Accept the Science of Climate Change and its Consequences?

The DeSmog UK epic history series investigates the divide that opened up between chief executives and shareholders who were anxious that company operations and profits could be undermined by climate change.

The heavy-handed attack from lobbyists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that arose during the 1990s presented a new risk: that the oilmen would become isolated from other leaders of industry.

As early as 1995, a deep divide began to open up between the chief executive officers and shareholders of major corporations in the United States and Britain who were anxious that their own operations and profits could be undermined by climate change.

The Delphi Group in London, a major investments advisor, published a landmark report that year, warning banks, insurers and institutional investors to immediately withdraw investments from oil and coal.

Wind Power Could Supply 25% of Global Electricity By 2050 — If Fossil Fuel Industry Doesn't Get in the Way

wind power, clean energy

Wind power has become so successful that it could provide 25 to 30 per cent of global electricity supply by mid-century if vested interests don’t get in the way, according to a new report published Tuesday.

The report — Global Wind Energy Outlook 2014 — said that commercial wind power installations in more than 90 countries had a total installed capacity of 318 gigawatts (GW) at the end of 2013, providing about three per cent of global electricity supply.

By 2030, the report said, wind power could reach 2,000 GW, supply up to 17 to 19 per cent of global electricity, create over two million new jobs and reduce CO2 emissions by more than three billion tonnes per year.

The report published by the Global Wind Energy Council and Greenpeace International noted that while emissions-free wind power continues to play a growing role in international electricity supply, political, economic and institutional inertia is hampering attempts to deal with the consequences of climate change.

Sick of Enviro Documentaries? Why You Should Still Watch Disruption


This is a guest post by Zach Roberts.

As a documentary producer, I watch more than my fair share of environmental protest documentaries — probably about 20 a year. And almost all of them have the same, vague message: we need to do something!

Their scenes re-play like a bad video montage in my mind: earnest young people speaking at podiums, boring climatologists rambling on about the coming end of the world, forest fires, melting ice shelves, you know how it goes. In the lefty journalism world, we call this “preaching to the choir.”

Then there's Disruption, which is not so much a protest documentary as a call to arms. In an interview, co-director Jared P. Scott classified it under new genre of documentary — 'action films.' These are films that send a clear message about what must be done and then give viewers the information they need to actually get it done. And that's Disruption in a nutshell.

The documentary, made in collaboration with the organizers of the People’s Climate March, uses a mix of familiar footage from the likes of Yann Arthus-Bertrand and new behind-the-scenes footage from organizing meetings for the Sept. 21st protest, set to be the largest climate march in history.

Coal Lobbyist Jeff Holmstead Disqualified by Federal Judge in Ameren Pollution Lawsuit

Originally published on PolluterWatch

Jeff Holmstead, perhaps the nation's prime example of a revolving door lobbyist, was dismissed by a federal judge as an expert witness in a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency against Ameren Missouri, a coal burning utility.

In an ongoing case, the EPA has charged Ameren with violating the Clean Air Act by not installing appropriate pollution controls at one of its coal plants. The Sierra Club has since sued Ameren, “alleging 7,880 air quality violations at three coal-burning power plants since 2009,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Judge Rodney Sippel granted U.S. Justice Department's request to remove Holmstead as a witness, confirming that the lobbyist's history at U.S. EPA posed “multiple conflicts of interest.” Here's the judge's motion to dismiss Jeffrey Holmstead, citing Holmstead's use of his EPA experience to undermine EPA's pollution enforcement actions (emphases added):

Mr. Holmstead’s legal opinions are irrelevant, speculative, and inadmissible.” […] “By his own description, Mr. Holmstead’s testimony relies on his recollection of EPA “internal meetings” that he says are relevant to the issues to be tried in this action. Such internal communications are privileged and confidential and Mr. Holmstead may not rely on his recollection of them to testify against EPA. Moreover, Mr. Holmstead received other privileged information concerning the issues about which he now seeks to testify on behalf of Ameren, and participated in power-plants enforcement cases related to this one while at EPA. Before he left EPA, he even personally provided a declaration for EPA that is at issue in this and other related power-plants enforcement cases asserting privilege claims on behalf of EPA over documents that are relevant to the opinions he now seeks to offer. Yet he now seeks to change sides and testify against EPA. Moreover, he was assisted in the preparation of his report by another former EPA attorney who was involved in the early stages of the investigation that ultimately led to the filing of this case. For the reasons discussed in the accompanying Memorandum, Mr. Holmstead should not be allowed to testify in this matter due to his multiple conflicts of interest.

This is a notable blow to Mr. Holmstead's credibility, who touts his time at EPA to obscure his lobbying to protect polluters from public accountability.

Greenpeace Report: Obama Administration Exporting Climate Change by Exporting Coal

Greenpeace USA has released a major new report on an under-discussed part of President Barack Obama's Climate Action Plan and his U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) carbon rule: it serves as a major endorsement of continued coal production and export to overseas markets.

Leasing Coal, Fueling Climate Change: How the federal coal leasing program undermines President Obama’s Climate Plan” tackles the dark underbelly of a rule that only polices coal downstream at the power plant level and largely ignores the upstream and global impacts of coal production at-large. 

The Greenpeace report was released on the same day as a major story published by the Associated Press covering the same topic and comes a week after the release of another major report on coal exports by the Sightline Institute that sings a similar tune.

The hits keep coming: Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson framed what is taking place similarly in a recent piece, as did Luiza Ch. Savage of Maclean's Magazine and Bloomberg BNA

But back to Greenpeace. As their report points out, the main culprit for rampant coal production is the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which leases out huge swaths of land to the coal industry. Greenpeace says this is occurring in defiance of Obama's Climate Action Plan and have called for a moratorium on leasing public land for coal extraction.

“[S]o far, the Bureau of Land Management and Interior Department have continued to ignore the carbon pollution from leasing publicly owned coal, and have failed to pursue meaningful reform of the program,” says the report.

“Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and others in the Obama administration should take the President’s call to climate action seriously, beginning with a moratorium and comprehensive review of the federal coal leasing program, including its role in fueling the climate crisis.”

Greenpeace "Founder" Patrick Moore Not a Founder at All

For more than 20 years now, industry lobbyist Patrick Moore has touted himself a “co-founder” and sometimes even a “founder” of the global environment group Greenpeace. 

But a document making the rounds shows that Moore's claim to be a founder or a co-founder of Greenpeace is simply not true. 

A letter from 1971 shows Patrick Moore applying to take part in a Greenpeace trip and protest against nuclear testing in the Arctic ocean. A response from one of the actual co-founders of Greenpeace, Paul Cotes, on Greenpeace letterhead no less, acknowledges receipt of Moore's interest in taking part in Greenpeace activity.

How the heck can someone apply to be part of an organization that is already founded and then claim later to have been a founder? 

Here's the letter:

Greenpeace 'Arctic 30' Arrests Show Attempts to Silence Environmentalists Continue

This is a guest post by David Suzuki

Early November marked the 18th anniversary of the tragic murder of outspoken writer and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight colleagues by the Nigerian government. Saro-Wiwa and the others had waged a long campaign to stop multinational oil company Royal Dutch Shell from drilling in the lands of the Ogoni people in the Niger delta.

Nigerian military harassed and intimidated members of the Ogoni community for years because they opposed Shell’s drilling program. Saro-Wiwa and his colleagues defended their communities and local environment from a notoriously toxic industry. In November 1995, a special court established by the military government illegally detained and tried them on spurious charges. Convicted without due process, they were executed 10 days later, despite enormous international outcry.

Sadly, this is not an isolated occurrence. A recent report by human rights organization Global Witness documents the murders of more than 700 environmental and indigenous-rights activists over the past decade – more than one killing a week, on average. They reviewed databases, academic studies and news reports, and consulted with the United Nations and other international agencies. They found citizens are often harassed, intimidated, beaten up, sexually assaulted and sometimes killed for opposing endangered wildlife poaching, illegal logging, dams and activities of foreign mining companies – including some Canadian firms.

I experienced this reality in 1988 when we interviewed rubber tapper Chico Mendes about his battle to save the Amazon rainforest in Brazil for The Nature of Things. He was assassinated two weeks later. The following year, Kaiapo Chief Paiakan asked me to help stop a dam proposed for Altamira, Brazil. My wife, Tara, and I helped raise $70,000 for a demonstration, and the World Bank was persuaded to withdraw its project loan. Paiakan was then subjected to death threats. We brought him and his family to Vancouver until the danger subsided. 

Many instances of persecution and killing have occurred in countries with atrocious human rights records, such as Sri Lanka, Guatemala and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Yet surprisingly, most attacks on environmentalists have been in countries such as Brazil, Mexico and the Philippines, with democratically elected governments, independent judiciaries and other institutions intended to protect their citizens’ rights to voice concerns about the environment without facing harassment, intimidation and violence. These countries have also signed international agreements to protect human rights, like the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

As the recent incarceration of 28 Greenpeace activists and two freelance journalists by Russian authorities clearly demonstrates, human rights are vulnerable at a time when governments aggressively promote the interests of corporations over a healthy environment, and are willing to use heavy-handed tactics to ensure people who disagree don’t stand in the way.


Subscribe to greenpeace