Laurel Whitney

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Laurel Whitney is an up and coming contender in the climate change arena. Currently residing in New York City, she is an adjunct professor in the Environmental Studies department at Pace University, where she gets to depress aspiring freshman about how the world is riding a flaming rollercoaster towards ecological disaster. She also works as an environmental/climate change consultant, working on a diverse array of projects including documentary production, environmental education, activist organizing, and the occasional spout of journalism. She has lectured around the country, and will be published in an upcoming book called The Next Eco-Warriors.

Laurel takes the newfangled attack on scientific integrity quite personally as she doesn’t ever remember taking a class on How to Make Up and Manipulate Your Data 101 or How to Get Rich Off of Government Research Contracts 110 while attaining her multiple science degrees. She received her BS in marine science and chemistry from the University of South Carolina, where she researched Arctic biogeochemistry for several years. Realizing scientists had a knack for articulating but not captivating, she went on to study the many ways (well, failures) climate change is relayed to and perceived by the American public. She received her multidisciplinary MA in Climate and Society from Columbia University where she had the honor of working with and learning from many leading scientists at the International Research Institute of Climate and Society and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Since then, she’s focused on cultivating creative media projects that poke at the emboldening battle between multinationals, politicos, and the scientific community. Now she spends her days feeding her obsession to save the world and illuminate these crucial issues with an additional spoonful of comedy, satire, and logic. Past collaborators include Earthjustice, The Age of Stupid, The Yes Men, Rainforest Alliance, and hopefully many more to come.

Spruce Mine Mountaintop Removal Coal Permit Restored

In late March, a federal court ruled to open the Spruce No. 1 mine in Logan County, WV, to mountaintop removal coal mining. The EPA had originally vetoed the permit back in January of 2011, explaining that the destructive practices of mountaintop removal would endanger communities' health and access to clean water.

The permit authorizes the largest single mountaintop removal site in West Virginia's history.

Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that the EPA overreached when it tried to revoke the permit using the laws of the Clean Water Act. Berman declared,

It posits a scenario involving the automatic self-destruction of a written permit issued by an entirely separate federal agency after years of study and consideration. Not only is this nonrevocation-revocation logistically complicated, but the possibility that it could happen would leave permittees in the untenable position of being unable to rely upon the sole statutory touchstone for measuring their Clean Water Act compliance: the permit.”

The Farce Of The "Golden Age Of Gas"

Oil and gas industry insiders revealed earlier this year the high probability that we're headed into a shale gas bubble. But that's not what the industry's CEOs and PR departments want you to hear.

“The reality of at least 100 years’ worth of shale gas abundance has been supported by virtually every credible third-party expert…The collective market cap of these energy leaders approaches $2 trillion – ask yourself: do I believe Rolling Stone and Arthur Berman or the world’s biggest and most successful energy companies?”

So spouts off Chesapeake Energy in a press release earlier this month responding to a Rolling Stone article which likened fracking to a huge industry Ponzi scheme. Arthur Berman is an energy consultant based in Houston, and not swayed by the industry's vibrant plumage they are putting on display to the nation.

The energy companies want the public to believe in the “Golden Age of Gas”- as it has been dubbed- where the supplies are bountiful and the profits are high. While it's true that there have been economic booms in some areas that have gas reserves, the numbers are showing that these booms will not be long lived. Meanwhile, the falling price of gas along with the inherent public health risks and environmental devastation that comes along with it makes the gas rush less profitable in the long run. But the gas industry wouldn't have you believe that.

As The Maldives Slowly Erode Away: A Review Of "The Island President" Documentary

Mohamed “Anni” Nasheed caught widespread attention when he held a cabinet meeting underneath the sea in the months leading up to the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009. He continued to captivate negotiators, governments, and climate advocates with his frank and outspoken demeanor, sometimes for better or for worse. As the President of the Maldives, one of the lowest lying nations in the world, Nasheed's major objective has been to stop his country from sinking into the rising seas.

A new documentary, The Island President, gives audiences a rare look into the behind-the-scenes political struggles President Nasheed faced in the year leading up to the climate summit. The filmmakers capture Nasheed's monumental task of wrestling major world leaders to agree to reduce their emissions for the sake of saving vulnerable nations from the onslaught of climate change.

Those who attended the summit will quickly remember the frustrating tension felt as the two-weeks rolled further and further into disappointment, eventually leading to Obama's strong-arming on the last day of the conference. However, the film paints the outcome of Copenhagen in a positive light, focusing on the fact that countries came together to talk about the issue of climate change at all, instead of the massive failure that many remember it as.

“No, it was not the dramatic success that some had hoped it would be,” recalled director Jon Shenk, in an interview, “but there was something unprecedented that had happened, which was that this agreement got signed by all the countries stating that there is problem and we need to do something about it. From Nasheed's point of view, it's a start.”

Oil Industry Lobbyist / Mushroom Farmer Claims Family Farms Need Fracking

Because apparently the only way for small American farmers to sustain themselves is not with crops they produce, but by letting the good 'ole gas man tap the reserves under their land.

“Agriculture and industry go together, if you want prosperity in these little towns, you need balance, that's the story of my family.”

So said Karen Moreau on Fox & Friends, refering to the New York moratorium on fracking. Moreau claims to be from the “last family mushroom farm” in Feura Bush, NY and was on the show to talk about how fracking would be an economic rainbow to many small farms in the state, if only those pesky regulators would stop getting in their way.

The story Moreau neglected to tell on Fox & Friends was that she's the executive director for the New York State Petroleum Council, a division of the American Petroleum Institute. Translation: less so “family farmer” and more so “industry lobbyist”.

Moreau is the President and co-founder of The Foundation for Land and Liberty (FLL), a litigation organization formed to “protect private sector legal rights, so that land ownership remains a fundamental right derived from natural law”.

The foundation is mainly a property rights group that formed to provide legal assistance surrounding development issues to land owners in the Adirondacks. Moreau has a background in law, specifically in agriculture and rural economic development. She has been previously caught spinning facts and forgetting pertinent information in her New York Post opinion articles.

BREAKING: Tim DeChristopher Moved To Isolated Confinement

UPDATE: Tim was returned to the minimum security facility on the night of Wed March 28th after the prison received thousands of phone calls,” according to a post on the Peaceful Uprising Facebook page.

UPDATE: See the email that got Tim thrown in the hole below

According to a press release sent from Tim DeChristopher's organization, Peaceful Uprising, Tim was recently moved from the minimum security camp at Federal Correctional Institute Herlong in California to Herlong's “special housing unit” which, in the parlance of our times, equals “the hole.”

Sources report that DeChristopher was moved there at least two weeks ago because of an investigation brought on by an unknown U.S. Congressman.

DeChristopher was sentenced to two years incarceration last July, with 3 years probation, after being convicted of two federal felonies for fraudulently disrupting a BLM oil and gas lease auction. DeChristopher was disturbed by the sale of federal lands for fossil fuel energy development and chose an impromptu act of civil disobedience to call attention to the illegitimacy of the sale.

Since the sentencing, DeChistopher has enjoyed limited outside contact from prison. However, one email Tim originally sent to a friend seemingly went rogue. According to today's press release, DeChristopher's email to his friend on the outside expressing potential concern about a contributor to his nonprofit group was possibly the trigger for the odd increased scrutiny and punishment.

“Tim was inquiring about the reported business practices of one of his contributors, threatening to return the money if their values no longer aligned with his own.”

How or why the email ended up in Washington DC, no one knows at this point. Questions abound, actually. Why did this one email compel an unidentified member of the U.S. Congress to make a phone call to get DeChristopher moved to a more restrictive cell. Who? What? How? Why? 

Big Oil Rakes In Billions, Still Complains Taxes Are Too High

The President rolled out his FY2013 budget recently, which includes eliminating $40 billion in tax breaks from Big Oil companies, such as BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell. Meanwhile, the American Petroleum Institute's response would have you believe that cutting the subsidies would be the equivalent of moving back into their parents' basement.

It's propaganda at its most repetitive, crying that they are “job creators” and that it's so “unfair” to raise taxes because they already contribute millions to the economy every day, and if you do they swear to god prices will rise and the inevitable dependency on foreign oil will bring about the apocalypse itself if you don't let them have their way.

That's like Donald Trump begging to not get kicked out of rent-stabilized, low-income housing even when raking in billions annually, and then threatening to trash the place once the landlord actually puts up an eviction notice.

It's true. The combined profit of the “big 5” oil companies listed above was $137 billion last year, with ExxonMobil, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips coming in first, fourth, and 15th, respectively, on the Fortune 100 list of most profitable companies.

Congressional 'Scientific Integrity' Hearing On Fracking In WY Is Quite Lacking In Scientists

After starting the morning off with a little ritual stomping on the freedom of the press by ordering the arrest of Gasland director Josh Fox, the Republican members of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee got down to the real business of the morning: stomping all over the Environmental Protection Agency.

A few months ago the EPA released its draft report on the results from a study it conducted in Pavillion, WY. The residents there worried that the drilling rigs installed to extract natural gas were contaminating their drinking water after they started to experience health problems. After the state failed to produce conclusive results, the EPA was called in and later found benzene and other petroleum compounds not found naturally in groundwater aquifers at 50x the maximum contamination level set by the Safe Drinking Water Act.

After they ruled out other possible sources such as agricultural waste, pesticides, and dysfunctional septic systems, they concluded the contaminants were in fact from the gas wells. The EPA has released the raw data and quality assurance data for commenting and peer review.

The hearing was conducted mainly to assess the validity and integrity of the scientific findings. So naturally, out of the four panelists called to give testimony, none were actually scientists (one was at least a doctor). James Martin testified on behalf of the EPA and Dr. Bernard Goldstein testified to the public health concerns. The other two were Tom Doll of Wyoming Oil & Gas Conservation Commission on behalf of the Wyoming governor, and Kathleen Sgamma of Western Energy Alliance.

Josh Fox Arrested For "Unlawful Entry" At Congressional Fracking Public Hearing, GOP Attacks 1st Amendment Rights

Earlier this morning, “Gasland” filmmaker and anti-fracking advocate Josh Fox was ejected out of the Energy and Environment subcommittee meeting on fracking after he attempted to film it. Claiming the First Amendment gave him rights to record, Fox refused to leave, so he was handcuffed, led out, and later arrested. An ABC news crew was also prevented from filming as well. House Republicans directed the Capitol Hill police to arrest Fox, and to block the ABC team.

The Energy and Environment Subcommittee held a hearing on EPA's fracking study conducted in Pavilion, WY. A few months ago, the agency found benzene and other chemicals associated with fracking in resident's drinking water. The main focus of the hearing was to verify the scientific integrity of the study.

Puzzlingly, Fox was charged with “unlawful entry” to a public hearing. (How is that even possible? We'll await Republican explanation on how they're interpreting the First Amendment here.)

As Fox was led out of the room, Democratic Representative, Brad Miller (D-NC), attempted to suspend the committee rules to let the crews film the hearing but was blocked by the Republican Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD). Normally, the committee chairman can give special permission to allow uncredentialed media members to film. They attempted to pass a motion that would either allow Fox and others to film or postpone the hearing until credentials could be obtained, both of which were voted down with Harris stating that the hearing could be viewed on the web.

Huffington Post released this update

Capitol Police public information officer Seargant Kimberly Schneider provided the following statement to HuffPost on the morning's events:

“At approximately 10:30 a.m. today, United States Capitol Police arrested Joshua Fox of Milanville, Pa. in room 2318 of the Rayburn House office building. He is charged with unlawful entry, and he is currently being processed at United States Capitol Police headquarters.”
UPDATE: Gasland posted on Facebook that Josh Fox will be on the Ed Schultz show tonight on MSNBC at 8:45pm EST to talk about his arrest today.

New York Looks To Local Bans On Fracking

As the New York moratorium on fracking continues to hang in jeopardy, towns within the state are taking it upon themselves to issue fracking bans locally, what may become a last-ditch effort to keep fracking out if the moratorium is lifted. Over 20 cities, including Buffalo, Ithaca, Syracuse, and others in the Finger Lakes regions, have passed bans through the “municipal home rule” to keep fracking outside of their city limits.

The question, though, is whether the state and the courts will uphold the cities' rulings.

The home rule is designed to allow residents to pass laws that protect their health and environment from invading industries like oil and gas development. There is an abundance of evidence that fracking threatens drinking watersheds and wells, releases radiation, causes major sickness and disease, and even could contribute to earthquakes.

New York City's drinking water is protected, with lawmakers vowing to keep drilling operations contained to areas outside the watershed. However, there is still concern that if fracking operations cause major earthquakes, it could shatter the city's antiquated water tunnels that deliver drinking water from upstate.

In order to protect people who live outside the city, where legislators are eager to lift the moratorium and start drilling, local bans may be the only option left.

EPA Comments On New York's Environmental Impact Assessment: Hey...You Missed A Few Things

On the heels of receiving over 40,000 citizen comments on their environmental impact assessment, it looks like the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is also getting flack from the EPA on their fracking proposal.

The EPA's concerns echo those being shouted from the rooftops (or at least outside local town halls) for months from New York and Pennsylvania residents and advocacy groups, who are alarmed about the inherent risks to public health and drinking water that fracking imposes. The other looming question is whether the DEC can handle such a lofty task, seeing that they've experienced budget cuts and layoffs over the past couple of years.

Mainly, there are major concerns over drinking water buffer zones, wastewater treatment plans, those pesky earthquakes that seem to hang out near fracking-related sites, and the radiation hazards that could threaten workers and nearby residents.

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