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Justice Through Citizen Science: How ‘Chemical Fingerprinting’ Could Change Public Health

Read time: 8 mins
Testing soil sample in the lab

By Erica Cirino. Originally posted on The RevelatorCC BY-NC-SA 3.0

The technology exists to hold polluters accountable, but can it now be used to help monitor pollution and prevent toxic messes?

In the early 2000s, residents of a small, Rust Belt city called Tonawanda, New York, began noticing something strange: Over the years, it seemed, an increasing number of people were getting sick — primarily with cancer.

Tonawanda’s a highly industrial city with more than 50 polluting facilities situated within a three-mile radius. It was common for the air to feel dense and to smell like gasoline. Residents wondered what toxic chemicals might be in the air and if they were making them sick.

Pipeline Exec Refers to Activists Opposing Construction Near Bald Eagle Nest as ‘Awful Soulless People’

Read time: 5 mins
Bald eagle near Neversink River, New York

In a Twitter exchange that quickly devolved into a shouting match and the slinging of insults, an executive for a pipeline company called activists “awful soulless people.” Michelle Smith Hook, Director of Public Relations at Millennium Pipeline Company, was responding to heated tweets by activists in New York state who say the company is planning to construct a pipeline near a nesting bald eagle with eaglets, which are protected by federal law.

New York Gov. Cuomo Pushes Environmental Protections While Accepting Oil and Gas Donations

Read time: 5 mins
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

By Josefa Velasquez and Alex Kotch. This post originally appeared on Medium.

Challenger Cynthia Nixon recently unveiled an ambitious climate platform and promised to reject fossil fuel campaign donations.

As New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo seeks to bolster his environmental platform amid a contentious primary race, campaign finance records show that the Democratic governor has taken in more than $100,000 from the oil and gas industry during this election cycle.

On Monday, days after Cynthia Nixon  —  the Sex and the City actress challenging Cuomo from the left  —  announced she would be rejecting campaign contributions from the oil, gas and coal industries, the two-term governor declared that he plans to push for legislation banning single-use plastic bags, an apparent shift from February 2017, when Cuomo blocked New York City’s efforts to impose a 5-cent fee on plastic bags.

Energy CEO Says Fracking Build-out in New York Not Over, Wants Regulators to 'Lay Down and Approve Every Pipeline'

Read time: 9 mins
Crestwood natural gas compressor sign in Seneca Lake, New York

At a pipeline industry conference in Pittsburgh on January 31, Robert G. Phillips, CEO and President of Crestwood Equity Partners, offered an unusually candid perspective on pipelines, fracking, environmental regulations, and how industry plans to fight back against public opposition and permitting problems.

This past May, Crestwood announced that it was halting plans for a natural gas storage facility in the Finger Lakes region of New York following a three-year civil disobedience campaign by grassroots activists and environmentalists who feared contamination of Seneca Lake, which supplies drinking water to roughly 100,000 New Yorkers. But as Phillips told the conference, the company isn't backing off for good.

“Now, this is hand-to-hand combat in this region,” Phillips told the crowd of oil and gas company representatives at the pipeline conference, dubbed Marcellus Midstream 2018.

Take Two: Albany’s Oil-by-Rail Facilities Must Do New Environmental Review

Read time: 4 mins

The people of Albany, New York, got some good news last Friday about their port's oil-by-rail facilities.

“Global Companies must restart its environmental review process, given the significant new information about the benzene levels in Albany’s South End community and the hazards of crude oil transport,” said Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos. “DEC will ensure that this process includes a meaningful and thorough opportunity for public engagement.” 

Global Companies and Buckeye Partners are the two companies operating oil-by-rail facilities at the Port of Albany. While the letter last week was addressed to Global, the DEC has announced both will have to restart the environmental review process.

In 2014 DeSmog reported that the “residents of the Ezra Prentice apartments in Albany, N.Y., have been complaining about air quality issues ever since the oil trains showed up in the Port of Albany two years ago.”

New York Serves As Battleground for Oil and Gas Infrastructure Fights

Read time: 6 mins

When New York state banned fracking in 2015, it was a blow to the oil and gas industry. But it didn’t slow industry plans to continue to build out new oil and gas infrastructure in New York.

However, in another setback for the industry, Governor Cuomo’s administration just denied permits for the proposed Constitution pipeline — a pipeline that would have brought fracked gas from Pennsylvania into New York — which has effectively killed the project.

Pipeline giant Kinder Morgan also just announced it is shelving plans to build the natural gas pipeline known as Northeast Direct due to “inadequate capacity commitments from prospective customers.”  

These two decisions were celebrated by the many concerned citizens in New York who have been fighting new oil and gas infrastructure in the state.

New Poll Finds Growing Opposition To Fracking

Read time: 4 mins

A new study from Stanford has confirmed that fracking operations are contaminating drinking water sources in Wyoming.

“This is a wake-up call,” said lead author Dominic DiGiulio, a visiting scholar at Stanford School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences. “It's perfectly legal to inject stimulation fluids into underground drinking water resources. This may be causing widespread impacts on drinking water resources.”

Of course this comes soon after a Pennsylvania jury awarded $4.24 million to two families in Dimock, PA who sued Cabot Oil for contaminating their drinking water via fracking operations. And a new study that has found fracking — and not just frack waste injection — is causing earthquakes in Canada.

Reuters recently reported that Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy revealed that, “Methane emissions from existing sources in the oil and gas sector are substantially higher than we previously understood.”

So, it shouldn’t be too surprising that a new poll from Gallup finds that opposition to fracking among the American public has increased in the past year and now a majority of Americans oppose fracking.

New Pilgrim Oil Pipeline Proposed for New York and New Jersey Raises Many Questions

Read time: 9 mins

It isn’t hard to find news these days about how the crash in oil prices is impacting investment in new oil infrastructure and development. Headlines like “Big oil to cut investment again in 2016” and “Big Banks Brace for Oil Loans to Implode” appear regularly.

So why is a group fronted by two former Koch Industries executives moving forward with plans to build a new oil pipeline from Albany, NY to Linden, NJ? That is a good question. And the lack of answers as the permitting process moves forward is troubling.  

The actual proposal is for two pipelines. One to supposedly handle Bakken crude oil that arrives in Albany by train. The other would return refined products to Albany from Linden, NJ.

New York Attorney General Petitions Government for Oil-by-Rail Volatility Standard

Read time: 5 mins

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s recent petition to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to require oil producers to stabilize oil before it is shipped by rail is a detailed 30-page document. However, the essence of the document is summed up in a single sentence (found on page 24).

Without rulemaking on vapor pressure, current Federal standards will not prevent high intensity fires and explosions in future train accidents.”

Vapor pressure is a characteristic of oil used to quantify oil’s volatility and is correlated to the amount of natural gas liquids present in the crude oil mixture. The more natural gas liquids, the higher the vapor pressure.

The high percentage of natural gas liquids (e.g. propane and butane) in the Bakken oil are what make it so volatile and flammable.

As repeatedly noted by DeSmog, with the new regulations failing to address the volatility of the oil, the risk of “bomb train” accidents remains.

New York State Ban On Fracking Made Official

Read time: 2 mins

After years of exhaustive research and examination of the science and facts, prohibiting high-volume hydraulic fracturing is the only reasonable alternative.”

Those were the words many activists in New York never expected to hear from Joe Martens, head of the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, but they were included in a statement released today as New York made the state’s ban on fracking official.

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