Farron Cousins

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Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine, and his writings have appeared in publications such as California's Information Press and Pensacola's Independent Weekly.  He has also worked for the Ring of Fire radio program with hosts Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Mike Papantonio since August 2004, and is currently the producer of the program, in charge of guest booking, research, and scripting the week's show.  Farron also runs Mike Papantonio's publishing company - Seville Publishing. Farron received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009.  Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced.

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

New Lake Michigan Coal Ash Spill Raises Old Concerns

On Monday, a bluff surrounding a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based power plant collapsed, sending a cascade of debris and coal ash waste from the power plant into Lake Michigan. No injuries were reported by We Energies, the company who owns the power plant, but the environmental assessment will likely be less optimistic. We Energies, a subsidiary of Wisconsin Energy Corporation (NYSE: WEC), has confirmed that the debris that made it into the river likely contained coal ash.

As of Monday afternoon, a “fuel sheen” appeared on the surface of Lake Michigan as a result of the bluff collapse. Cleanup crews from Clean Harbor were contracted by We Energies to help contain the spread of the sheen, and will be deploying about 1,500 feet of boom to help contain the waste on the surface. Shortly after the accident, residents living up to a mile away from the site along the lake were already reporting debris washing onshore.

As we have reported extensively in the past, coal ash contains countless toxic substances, including mercury, hexavalent chromium, arsenic, and cadmium. It has also been reported to be more radioactive as nuclear waste. In spite of these findings, the EPA has yet to issue any firm stance on whether or not coal ash will be regulated as a “toxic waste,” partly due to the fact that the coal industry has unleashed a cadre of lobbyists to Washington to fight to protect their coal ash interests.

The EPA’s delay in issuing a ruling on coal ash has allowed the Republican-controlled Congress to gain the upper hand on the issue. In early fall 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would prohibit the EPA from regulating coal ash, and preventing them from classifying the substance as “hazardous.” Instead of EPA regulations, the bill would allow states to issue their own standards on coal ash and prevent any federal standards.

Harry Reid to Hillary Clinton: Drop Keystone XL Pipeline Plan

Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline have gained a new ally in the fight to prevent this disastrous oil boondoggle from moving forward: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–NV).

Earlier this month, Sen. Reid sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging her to abandon the pipeline and instead focus on renewable energy. The Washington Post provided an excerpt of Reid’s letter to Clinton:

The proponents of this pipeline would be wiser to invest instead in job-creating clean energy projects, like renewable power, energy efficiency or advanced vehicles and fuels that would employ thousands of people in the United States rather than increasing our dependency on unsustainable supplies of dirty and polluting oil that could easily be exported.

This is the first time that Reid has publicly addressed the Keystone XL issue, and that signals a very powerful friend to the opponents of the pipeline. Already, some labor unions and Democratic lawmakers have thrown their support in favor of the pipeline, maintaining that the project would create much-needed jobs, despite evidence to the contrary.

Earlier this month, Congressman Henry Waxman (D–CA) called on the House Energy and Commerce Committee to investigate the Koch brothers' interests in the Keystone XL pipeline, as the majority of the members on the Energy Committee have received campaign contributions from Koch Industries and its employees.


The fact that Reid chose to single out Clinton on the issue shows that he is paying attention to the issue very closely. DeSmogBlog has put together some excellent pieces detailing Clinton’s ties to the lobbyists pushing the pipeline.

New Jersey Environmental Group Targets Anti-Environment Legislators With New Ad Campaign

Environment New Jersey has announced an aggressive new online advertising campaign to hold so-called “environment-friendly” state representatives accountable for their anti-environmental voting records. At issue are three representatives’ votes regarding a bill that would delay the clean up of toxic waste sites.

From Environment New Jersey’s press release:

The House of Representatives approved the “TRAIN” Act, which would indefinitely delay the clean-up of toxic power plant pollution; another bill (H.R. 2681) that prevents clean air standards that lower mercury and other toxic air pollution from cement plants; and a bill (H.R. 2250) that would prevents standards to reduce toxic pollution from industrial incinerators and boilers at power plants.


The “TRAIN” Act alone, if passed, could result in 139,500 lives lost due to smog, soot, and toxic air pollution. In New Jersey, it could result in over 3,200 lives lost due to air pollution. The health benefits delivered by the incinerator and boiler standards are as high as $54 billion annually, and the health benefits from cement standards will be as high as $18 billion annually.

All of these bills were voted on the heels of an Environment New Jersey report, “Danger in the Air,” that found New Jersey’s air to be some of the smoggiest in the country. The findings included that the North Jersey metropolitan area, including New York and Connecticut, ranked as the 5th smoggiest metropolitan area in the country this past summer.

The three state congressmen specifically targeted by the ads are Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7), Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-2) and Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11). All three men claim to be friends of the environment, or at least boast of a moderate record on environmental issues, but their votes for the TRAIN Act prove otherwise.

Robert Bryce – The Media’s Industry-Funded Go-To Guy

Robert Bryce, a fellow at the dirty industry-funded Manhattan Institute, is under increasing scrutiny as media outlets continue to use him as an “expert” on energy issues without disclosing his ties to the energy industry. DeSmogBlog’s Brendan DeMelle has written several pieces on Bryce’s connections to the industry, as well as how media outlets, including the New York Times, continue to allow Bryce to write op-eds on energy issues that are laden with fallacies without disclosing his conflict of interest.

From Brendan’s previous reports on Bryce’s New York Times piece:

Bryce penned an op-ed attacking renewable energy while promoting nuclear and fracked shale gas, with no disclosure in his byline about the Manhattan Institute’s fossil fuel clients. I offered Bryce's piece as an example in order to formally seek answers about the disclosure policy at the Times and whether it was adequate in light of the failure to disclose Bryce’s dirty energy backing.

Now Media Matters has done a fantastic job of detailing the numerous media outlets that are allowing the industry hack Bryce to pen his agenda-driven drivel, as well as uncovering where his group's funding is coming from:

New Federal Report Says Gulf of Mexico Cleanup Needed “Urgently”

A preliminary report released Wednesday by the federal Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force says that cleanup is needed for the Gulf of Mexico “urgently,” in order to protect the environmental and economical status of the Gulf.

The task force was established by President Obama after the oil disaster in the Gulf last summer, and is set to deliver a final report on the status of the Gulf of Mexico, as well as a restoration strategy for Gulf Coast states to implement in order to save the region. The goals set forward by the task force include conserving habitats along the Gulf Coast, improving water quality, protecting coastal resources, and enhancing the resilience of coastal communities.

Oil Lobbyists Targeting “Super Committee”

As the so-called “Super Committee” works to figure out how to trim $1.2 trillion from the U.S. government’s federal deficit, the dirty energy industry has their lobbyists working overtime to make sure that their billions of dollars in annual subsidies aren’t among the items on the chopping block.

The Super Committee only has until Thanksgiving to submit their proposals to President Obama. And not being ones to miss an opportunity, members on the committee have scheduled dozens of personal fundraisers for their campaigns before that deadline hits. And many of the companies who fear that their subsidies could be cut will be in attendance. After all, the lobbyist blitz contains more than 180 former staffers of members of the Super Committee, so access is not an issue, and no introductions will be necessary.

The New York Times lays out the issue as follows:
  

Hundreds of lobbyists, including many former Congressional officials and frequent campaign contributors, are making their cases to the committee members.

Ethanol fuel producers, oil companies, corporate jet owners and many other businesses want the committee to guard their own special tax breaks.

“Everybody’s at risk,” said Howard Marlowe, president of the American League of Lobbyists, “and so everyone’s going to be out there lobbying.”

With the lobbying, of course, come valuable campaign contributions. Despite calls from watchdog groups to suspend their fund-raising, most committee members are continuing to raise money from many of the same industries affected by their work.
 

BP Oil Dispersant Corexit Contained Cancer-Causing Agents

A new report on the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster of 2010 is providing adequate cause for concern for residents and clean up workers along the Gulf Coast. The report from EarthJustice reveals that Corexit, the oil dispersant used by BP to aid in oil cleanup, is laden with cancer-causing chemicals.

The dispersant Corexit was dumped into the oil-stained waters of the Gulf of Mexico to help the oil coagulate and sink to the sea floor. Once the oil clumps reached the bottom, it was believed that they would disintegrate into the water, no longer posing a threat to marine life. But as EarthJustice’s report shows, the threat lingered.

An estimated 1.8 million gallons of Corexit were dumped into the Gulf of Mexico in an attempt to displace the 206 million gallons of oil that spewed from a broken well-head on the Gulf floor. And while the dispersant itself was ruled to be less toxic than the oil, the study suggests that the combination mixture of crude oil and dispersant poses a significantly greater threat to both the environment and marine life than either substance on its own. The EPA says that studies have been done on some of the 57 chemical agents found in dispersants, but they also acknowledge that no long term studies have been conducted on the exposure to these chemicals in quantities as large as were poured into the Gulf.

Michele Bachmann Envisions a World Without Food Industry Safety Standards

Republican Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann believes that the government needs to stay out of the business of protecting the foods we eat. At a campaign stop this week, she told her supporters that food suppliers are “overburdened” by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations. She informed the crowd that, yes, we need safety, but more importantly, we also need what she calls “common sense.”

Bachmann is joining in the chorus of conservative voices railing against “burdensome” regulations, but she is among the first to make the claim in regards to the food industry. Last December, Bachmann was one of the few members of Congress to vote against legislation that would have protected consumers by increasing the oversight of the food processing industry, a move that she claims would cause producers to spend more on safety and less on creating new jobs.

Bachmann was joined in her crusade against food safety standards last year by the conservative Heritage Foundation. Heritage went on the offensive last year when Congress debated legislation to increase food industry safety standards. Heritage claimed that regulation will never work, and that the free market has built in mechanisms that weed out any bad eggs who produce substandard goods:

Market forces such as competition, brand-name value, monitoring by financial markets and insurers, and common law are also powerful drivers of food safety. There are bad actors in every pursuit, of course, but considering the sheer size of the market, Americans enjoy a remarkably safe food system.

Global Financial Leaders Recommend Cutting Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Global financial institutions including the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have released a new set of recommendations for G20 countries to meet their goal of providing $100 billion a year in aid for developing nations to combat climate change. In addition to calls for charges on carbon emissions and higher prices for carbon-intensive fuels, the financial experts said the first source of funding should come from redirecting fossil fuel subsidies.

In a move that will surely leave the dirty energy industry in a fit of rage, global economists said that fossil fuel subsidies should be cut and redirected towards helping developing nations fight climate change. The total amount spent on industry subsidies for G20 countries is currently $60 billion a year, more than half of what the countries have pledged to spend per year on climate initiatives and renewable energy projects.

From The Huffington Post:
  

The draft paper says the starting point should be a review of fossil fuel subsidies, amounting to $40 billion to $60 billion a year. But many of those subsidies are handed out in poor countries, where people living on the edge of subsistence need help, for example, to buy cooking gas. Still, subsidy reforms in industrialized countries and emerging economies could contribute $10 billion a year to a climate fund, it said.

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