pollution

US Air Quality Improving but White House Looking to Reverse That Progress

Smokestacks emitting pollution

The American Lung Association (ALA) released its “State of the Air” report last week, and the organization found that air quality in U.S. cities has improved in the time period from 2012–2014. The ALA report specifically cites the increased air quality protections and emission reduction programs that first began popping up in the U.S. to improve air quality in the 1970s.

While overall air quality improved in the major cities studied in the report, the ALA did note that short periods of increased air particulate contamination existed in many areas. Furthermore, the ALA added that at least 166 million Americans are currently living in areas where the level of air contaminants exceeds safe limits.

The timing of this report is very important, as the group is hoping to use this information to convince the Trump administration not to repeal or otherwise weaken air quality standards enacted by the Obama administration.

Destroying EPA Protections Will Disproportionately Hurt Children

Crying baby

President Donald Trump’s proposed 31 percent budget cut for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is devastating for anyone who isn’t financially connected to the fossil fuel industry. Reversing the course on projects that include reducing carbon emissions, protecting rivers and streams from industrial pollutants, and investments in renewable energy is not only bad for the planet, but it is a disaster for human health. And those most at risk of a potentially more toxic environment are children.

There are several reasons why children are more susceptible to pollution than adults, with the most obvious being that they spend more time outdoors and are more likely to come in direct contact with dirt, water, and plant life.

But the real danger to children lies in their biology.

Fracking Can Contaminate Drinking Water, Has Made Some Water Supplies "Unusable," Long-Awaited EPA Study Concludes

The Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it had completed its scientific report on whether fracking puts America's drinking water supplies at risk.

The EPA's conclusions were clear: fracking can harm water. And it's not the the hydraulic fracturing process itself that poses risks — problems have emerged at every stage of the water cycle associated with fracking, at times making people's drinking water supplies “unusable.”

EPA's Fracking Study Edited at Last Minute, Downplaying Risks, Newly Uncovered Documents Show

Just before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its high profile study on fracking, the agency planned to announce that the draft “study shows potential vulnerabilities to drinking water from hydraulic fracturing process.”

But that wasn't the message the public heard the next day.

Instead, the EPA's press release highlighted a statement that the $29 million “[a]ssessment shows hydraulic fracturing activities have not led to widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources…”

Senate Poised to Pass Water Bill Reversing Coal Ash Pollution Rules

Coal ash spill surrounding a house in Tennessee.

Every two years the Senate passes a new Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which contains the funding necessary to protect America’s water infrastructure. This year’s legislation includes $9 billion worth of spending on water delivery infrastructure and runoff containment and abatement, among other projects.

As currently written, this bill also would allocate $280 million to address the lead water pollution crisis in Flint, Michigan, making this a must-pass piece of legislation that could easily become a hot-button campaign issue should any senator up for reelection choose to vote it down.

And that’s precisely why one of its amendments — championed by the coal industry — to dismantle coal ash pollution protections is likely to become a reality, and as a result, potentially endanger water supplies all over the United States.

Top Shale Fracking Executive: We Won't Frack the Rich

Fracking companies deliberately keep their wells away from the “big houses” of wealthy and potentially influential people, a top executive from one of the country's most prominent shale drilling companies told a gathering of attorneys at a seminar on oil and gas environmental law earlier this month, according the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“'We heard Range Resources say it sites its shale gas wells away from large homes where wealthy people live and who might have the money to fight such drilling and fracking operations,' said Patrick Grenter, an attorney and Center for Coalfield Justice executive director, who attended the lawyers’ forum,” the Post-Gazette reported. “A handful of attorneys in the audience confirmed that account,” and added that the Range Resources official had prefaced his remarks by saying “To be frank”.

High-Profile Trial Begins in Dimock, PA Water Contamination Case

Trial began this week in a case alleging that an oil and gas company contaminated drinking water in Dimock, Pennsylvania. The tiny town is now internationally notorious over claims that drilling and fracking tainted people's drinking water and caused it to become flammable.

This lawsuit is the first such case out of Dimock to reach a jury, nearly a decade after many residents of Carter Road, a short stretch of dirt road in the Endless Mountains region of Pennsylvania, first noticed that their water seemed to have gone bad.

“We haven't had clean water since he was in kindergarten,” Monica Marta-Ely told reporters during a press conference outside the courthouse on Monday, as she gestured to her 13 year-old son, Jared. “He's in 7th grade now.”

It's a legal case that is as noticeable for the allegations being tried —  that Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. negligently contaminated the water supplying Nolan Scott Ely and his family and that living without water for years was a serious nuisance for the Elys and the Huberts, a family living in a trailer on the Ely's land — as for the claims and evidence that the jury will not hear.

Minority And Low-Income Communities Are Targeted For Hazardous Waste Sites, Research Confirms

Decades of research show a clear pattern of racial and socioeconomic discrimination when it comes to siting facilities for hazardous waste disposal, polluting industrial plants and other land uses that are disproportionately located in minority and low-income communities.

But what’s been less clear is whether the placement of these facilities was deliberate on the part of the facilities’ owners and public policymakers, or if the noxious facilities came first, leading to disproportionately higher concentrations of low-income residents and minorities moving into the surrounding community.

In order to test both theories, Paul Mohai of the University of Michigan and Robin Saha of the University of Montana analyzed 30 years of demographic data about the placement of 319 commercial hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal facilities.

By looking at the demographic composition of neighborhoods at the time each hazardous waste facility was built and comparing that with the demographic changes that occurred after the facility began operation, they determined that existing minority and low-income communities were, without doubt, targeted.

California Governor Jerry Brown’s Climate Credentials In Question As Massive Methane Leak Threatens Public Health

California Governor Jerry Brown was in Paris this week at the COP21 climate talks burnishing his credentials as a climate leader.

Which has a lot of folks back home wondering: Why isn't Governor Brown using his authority to declare a state of emergency to protect the health of Californians currently endangered by the Sempra Energy methane leak at Porter Ranch?

At Tuesday’s High Level Assembly of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, Gov. Brown talked tough about his efforts to “dramatically lower” emissions of short-lived climate pollutants, including methane.

“This is probably the most immediate challenge, and the most important thing to do leaving this conference,” Brown said at the event. “Short-lived climate pollutants are something we can tackle.”

And yet, back in the Golden State, a methane leak at Sempra Energy subsidiary Southern California Gas Co.’s Aliso Canyon storage facility has been spewing massive amounts of gas for well over a month and making residents in the San Fernando Valley community of Porter Ranch sick. Hundreds of residents have already been relocated due to health issues associated with the methane leak.

"Abandoned" by EPA, Landowers from Dimock, Pavillion, Parker County Demand Inclusion in EPA National Fracking Study

For the past five years, the EPA has undertaken a highly-consequential national study on the impacts that hydraulic fracturing (fracking) can have on American drinking water supplies.

The agency will look to the results of this program as the basis for its scientific conclusions and recommendations on hydraulic fracturing,” EPA said in a 2013 statement.

This June, the national study's draft assessment was released to the public, and while hundreds of spills, accidents, and even cases where fracking itself directly contaminated underground aquifers (a method of pollution that the oil industry had long argued had never happened) were reported by EPA, it was a phrase from the agency's press release that drew the attention of the national media: “hydraulic fracturing activities in the U.S. are carried out in a way that have not led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources.”

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