public health

8 Years After BP Oil Spill, Sick Cleanup Workers Still Waiting for Day in Court

Read time: 7 mins
BP oil spill cleanup workers and supporters protesting outside federal court in Louisiana

On the eighth anniversary of the BP oil spill, Retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré stood in front of the New Orleans Federal Court House and called “bullshit” on the court’s handling of claims made by those who participated in the cleanup efforts. 

Thousands of workers BP hired to clean up the spill that polluted the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 have claimed exposure to oil and the dispersant has made them sick and still have not had their day in court. “It’s a crying damn shame we’ve allowed this in America,” Honoré said.

Meeting Paris Goals Means Dealing with Climate Impacts of Eating Meat

Read time: 5 mins
beef cattle in feedlot

Environmental groups place a lot of attention on trying to stop new oil, gas, and coal development since current fossil fuel projects would likely already blow us past the less-than 2°C upper limit for warming laid out in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. In fact, there’s a whole movement, known as “Keep It in the Ground,” predicated on this idea.

But when faced with a resurgence of support for fossil fuels from the White House, perhaps just as important is talking about how to “Keep It in the Cow,” according to some reports. Right now, experts predict agriculture is set to eat up half the greenhouse gas emissions the world can release by 2050 and still stay below 2°C (3.6°F) of warming.

That is, unless the world takes a big bite out of its meat consumption, especially from cattle and other livestock that chew their cud, say researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden. Raising these ruminants produces a lot of methane, a much more potent but shorter-lived greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

While One Louisiana Town's Lead-Tainted Water System Is Replaced, Dozens of Others Deteriorate

Read time: 9 mins
A man fills a glass with dirty water from his kitchen sink faucet

For years the discolored water delivered to the northern Louisiana delta town of St. Joseph resembled what one would expect to find in a third-world country. But it wasn’t until high levels of lead were discovered in the town’s municipal water system that work began to replace it. 

On March 6, Louisiana Gov. John Bell Edwards, along with local officials and state lawmakers, attended a groundbreaking ceremony for St. Joseph's new water system, wielding symbolic golden shovels in the parking lot next to city hall. 

Study Finds Connection Between Living Near Oil and Gas Development and Childhood Leukemia

Read time: 4 mins
oil derrick in a field in Colorado

With the rise of new technologies like fracking and horizontal drilling, oil and gas development in the United States has exploded over the past 15 years. As development expands, it’s also pushing ever closer into areas where people live. It’s been estimated that today more than 15 million Americans live within one mile of oil and gas development.

The drilling process, of course, has the potential to emit toxic substances, including the carcinogen benzene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and diesel exhaust, into the surrounding air and waterways. But researchers have long been trying to determine to what extent oil and gas drilling operations may threaten public health, particularly around cancer risk.

However, new research suggests that childen living in areas of high-density oil and gas development may face increased risk of health impacts, namely a certain type of leukemia, as a result of their exposure to pollutants associated with this activity.

FERC Suggests Spectra Energy Gas Facility Would Not Pose Cancer Risk, Based on Study by Spectra Consultant

Read time: 4 mins
FERC office

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) concluded in an environmental assessment that a proposed Spectra Energy gas compressor station in a residential Massachusetts neighborhood would not increase the risk of cancer in nearby residents. 

However, it came to this conclusion via a questionable route — by citing a study done by a firm simultaneously working for Spectra.

One Year After Worst Methane Leak In U.S. History, Locals Still Calling To Shut Down Aliso Canyon

Read time: 4 mins
Protesters against the reopening of Aliso Canyon

It took two and a half months after methane first started leaking from the Aliso Canyon storage facility on October 23, 2015 for the state of California to declare a state of emergency.

By the time the leak was stopped in February 2016, the blowout at Aliso Canyon had caused an estimated 100,000 metric tons of natural gas to escape into the atmosphere, the largest single emission of methane documented in U.S. history. Thousands of homes had to be evacuated in the nearby North San Fernando Valley community of Porter Ranch, where residents suffered headaches, nosebleeds, rashes, and other serious health impacts due to the gas leak.

Judge Strikes Down Plan to Open One Million Acres of California Public Lands to Drilling

Read time: 4 mins
San Ardo oil field drilling infrastructure.

On September 6, a U.S. district judge in Los Angeles issued a ruling overturning a federal plan to open vast tracts of public land in central California to oil and gas drilling, which includes hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

U.S. District Judge Michael Fitzgerald ruled that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had failed to analyze the risks of fracking and other extreme oil and gas extraction techniques when preparing a resource management plan that would have allowed drilling on more than one million acres of land in California’s Central Valley, the southern Sierra Nevada, and in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Ventura counties.

High Levels of Chemicals Found in People Living Near Gas Wells: New Report

Read time: 5 mins

Chemicals from gas wells were discovered in biological samples drawn from residents of Pavillion, Wyoming, at levels as much as ten times the national averages, according to a new report. The study is the first to sample both the air near drilling sites and the levels of chemicals in people living and working near those wells, allowing researchers to study the ways that toxic air pollutants are entering people's bodies near gas wells and putting their health at risk.

The researchers found evidence of 16 potentially dangerous chemicals in 11 individuals who volunteered to participate in the study by wearing air monitors and providing blood and urine samples. They found benzene, toluene, 2-heptanone, 4 heptanone and evidence of roughly a dozen other substances — including some known to be quite dangerous and others for which little safety information is available.

Harvard Study Finds Renewable Energy Is Responsible For Millions In Health Benefits

Read time: 3 mins

The displacement of fossil fueled electricity, especially coal-fired power plants, by renewable energy technologies is just as good for public health as it is for the climate, Harvard researchers say. 

In a new report published in the journal Nature Climate Change, researchers from Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health write that regional health benefits worth hundreds of millions of dollars per year are attributable to renewable energy and efficiency projects.  

California Father Sues State Over New Fracking Rules That Discriminate Against Latino Children

Read time: 4 mins

A California family is suing the state for failing to protect their children from fracking.

At issue are the state’s new fracking regulations, which went into effect on July 1. Rodrigo Romo, the named plaintiff in the suit, says the rules discriminate against Latino children, like his daughters, because they are far more likely to go to school or live near a fracked well.

“Everyday my daughters go to school, they fear for their health and safety because of how close the fracking wells are to their schools,” Romo said in a statement.

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