EcoWatch

A feed from EcoWatch, one of the US’s leading environmental news sites at the forefront of uniting all shades of green to ensure the health and longevity of our planet.


18 August 2017. 'A Major Win for New Yorkers': Court of Appeals Upholds State's Denial of Water Quality Certification for Constitution Pipeline

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld New York State's denial of a water quality certification for the Constitution Pipeline Friday, a critical win for the Attorney General's office and the state's authority to take necessary action to protect its waters and natural resources. The appeals court noted that the state is entitled to "conduct its own review of the Constitution Project's likely effects on New York waterbodies and whether those effects would comply with the state's water quality standards."

New York must be able to do what's necessary to protect our environment—and we're glad that the court agreed.


It would be unacceptable for a pipeline —or any project—to pollute our waters and undermine New Yorkers' health and water resources. Today's decision marks a major win for New Yorkers, and for the state's right to take the actions necessary to protect the public and our environment.

My office stands ready to continue to vigorously defend New Yorkers' right to a safe and healthy environment from all who may harm it.

The proposed Constitution Pipeline would include construction of 100 miles of new natural gas pipeline across undeveloped lands in central New York, impacting and crossing more than 250 streams and more than 80 acres of wetlands.

In December 2014, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the pipeline but conditioned that approval on certification from New York State that the project would comply with state water quality standards and requirements. Following a thorough review of the project, the Department of Environmental Conservation denied the certification on the grounds that Constitution failed to provide sufficient information to demonstrate that the project would meet New York's water quality standards. Constitution challenged Department of Environmental Conservation's denial.

18 August 2017. 6 Amazing Places to Camp During the Total Solar Eclipse

By Anne Bolen

On Aug. 21, for the first time since 1918, a total solar eclipse will cross the U.S. from coast to coast. Along the path of totality, the moon will completely block out the sun, turning day to twilight for nearly three minutes. While a partial eclipse will be visible throughout the U.S., millions will be flocking to spots along the path of totality , which begins in Salem on Oregon's coast about 10:15 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time and exits the nation at Charleston, South Carolina, where maximum coverage will occur about 2:47 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Perhaps no other natural event will inspire so many people to go outdoors.


But the eclipse won't be the only spectacle nature has to offer that day, so why not pledge to participate in the National Wildlife Federation's Great American Campout ? You can simply camp in your own backyard or that of a friend. However, if you can still get in, some of the best viewing locations will be in or near parks or other outdoor areas that offer campsites and fabulous wildlife watching opportunities—which could give you a glimpse of some unusual wildlife behavior, if past eclipses are any indication.

During a 1998 total eclipse, for example, Galápagos reef fishes that were normally active during the day darted into shelter while nocturnal fish came out to feed, and pelicans and frigatebirds in Venezuela that had been out hunting returned to shore. Orb-weaving spiders in Mexico took down their webs during a total eclipse on July 11, 1991, only to start rebuilding them once the sun reappeared. Researchers from the Boston Society of Natural History described observations of wildlife from both scientists and the public during the August 31, 1932, total eclipse in the northeastern U.S. They reported that during the sudden darkness, ants carrying bounty stopped in their tracks, crickets chirped louder, bees hurried back to their hives, toads frantically started hunting insects and worms, songbirds went silent, bats emerged and flowers began to close their petals.

Whatever you see before, during or after the eclipse, you might want to report your wildlife observations through citizen-science apps such as iNaturalist, which is part of the California Academy of Sciences' Life Responds Project . And whether you are camping in your own backyard or at a campout event in a national park, you can use the University of California–Berkeley's eclipse simulator to find out what the eclipse will be like at your location.

Here are some perhaps lesser-known campout locations and events, as well as parks and refuges along the eclipse's path. Don't forget your wildlife binoculars and special eclipse-viewing glasses to enjoy all that nature has to offer. As National Wildlife Federation Naturalist David Mizejewski said, "The eclipse is a great inspiration for us all to get out into nature and see wildlife in action."

Camping and Wildlife-Watching Spots

Douglas Beal

1. Powerland Heritage Park in Brooks, Oregon, is hosting a special eclipse campout at its electric railway museum. The nearby Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge , is home to some 200 species of birds, including Canada geese, bald eagles, black-necked stilts and great horned owls (above). Will the owls appear and begin to hoot when day turns into night?

Brandon Marling

2. While not within the path of the total eclipse, Last Chance Camp in Cheyenne, Wyoming, says the sun will have 97.5 percent coverage and offers both tent and RV camping sites. You can also visit the Pawnee National Grasslands just over the border in Colorado to see raptors such as eagles and prairie falcons as well as elk, bighorn sheep, burrowing owls and prairie dogs (above). Will these rodents dive into their burrows as the sky darkens?

National Park Service

3. Foxcreek Campout in Victor, Idaho, is hosting a five-day solar eclipse festival from August 18 to 22. This is less than an hour from Grand Teton National Park , which is also offering special eclipse viewing areas and is where bison (above), elk, moose and grizzly bears roam. Cattle have been known to move toward their barns during eclipses. Will the bison lie down and begin to doze?

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

4. Hopkinsville, Kentucky, is close to the "point of the greatest eclipse," where the sun and moon align most perfectly. Christian Way Farm nearby is offering sites for primitive camping as well as a place to park and view for noncampers. It is only about an hour and half to Illinois' Shawnee National Forest , another great place to not only view the eclipse but also animals such as beavers, grey and red foxes, bobcats and bats, including the endangered Indiana bat (above). Keep an eye to the skies for bats emerging during the eclipse.

Jason Quinn

5. Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers expansive views to see the eclipse and a range of camping , from backcountry camping to a place for you and your horse. Known as the salamander capital of the world, you can find at least 30 species here, including red-spotted newts (above). As toads were observed going into a feeding frenzy during an eclipse, will salamanders follow suit?

Jim Gray

6. The pathway of the total eclipse will end at Charleston, South Carolina, with maximum coverage occurring at about 2:47 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Holly Oaks Farm in Saint Matthews about an hour and half away is offering primitive tent and RV camp sites. Less than 40 miles away from Charleston and still in the path of totality is the Francis Marion National Forest, which also offers camping and a plethora of wildlife, including 1,600 species of plants, 48 mammal species, 43 amphibian species, 58 species of reptiles and 250 bird species, such as swallowtail kites (above). During the eclipse, will birds fall silent only to break out into the second "dawn chorus" of the day as the sun re-emerges?

While we won't know for sure what wildlife will do, we do know that this will be one of the greatest outdoor events of our century. Go out and enjoy it.

18 August 2017. Zinke Goes on Mediterranean Vacation Instead of Visiting National Monuments on Chopping Block

In less than one week, Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke will submit his final recommendations to President Trump on whether 27 national monuments around the country should be downsized, eliminated, transferred to state control or left alone.

But as Aaron Weiss, the media director of the conservation group Center for Western Priorities , pointed out : "Rather than spending his final week hearing from local communities who have worked tirelessly to protect their natural and cultural heritage as national monuments, Secretary Zinke is on vacation in the Mediterranean. His wife, Lola Zinke, tweeted a picture early this morning of herself and Secretary Zinke enjoying a sunrise on the Bosphorus Strait."


Center for Western Priorities deputy director Greg Zimmerman had similar criticisms.

"Our national monuments are full of beautiful places to take a summer trip. Secretary Zinke promised a rigorous analysis of national monuments, but what the American public got was a sham review and a foreign vacation," Zimmerman said.

"If he bothered to listen, Secretary Zinke would have found that national monuments are cornerstones of Western economies, that they protect exceptional and unique lands, and, most of all, that virtually no Americans support eliminating national monuments. I worry, instead, he's moving to permanently shut down national monuments."

Under Trump's April executive order , the former Montana congressman was given 120 days determine if previous presidential administrations exceeded their authority in 27 monument designations.

According to Weiss, Zinke promised that he would listen to and engage with local communities and national monument stakeholders before permanently closing any national monuments.

However, the secretary has only stepped foot and met with stakeholders in eight of the sites and is not expected to make other visits before the Aug. 24 deadline, Weiss noted.

More than 2.7 million people flooded the government comment website saying they want the country's iconic natural and cultural landmarks to remain protected.

Public lands advocates and environmentalists worry that Zinke's final recommendations could open up national monuments for private development. Greenpeace reported in July that public records highlight that Zinke's personal schedule includes several meetings with oil and gas companies and lobbying firms including BP America, Chevron, ExxonMobil, American Petroleum Institute, Western Energy Alliance and Continental Resources.

On Thursday, a dozen protestors gathered at the U.S. Forest Service office in downtown Missoula to protest the secretary as well as the president. According to the Missoulian , they held signs that said, "Zinke is Stinke" and "Zinke Public Lands Enemy #1."

Derek Ketner, one of the demonstrators, told the publication that it was "embarrassing" that Zinke had not visited all of the monuments under review.

"It's very important and we want our views to be heard," Ketner said. "We're hoping that he will finally start listening to us."

18 August 2017. Trump Green Lights Arctic Drilling Project in Polar Bear Habitat

The Trump administration released an environmental review Thursday of Hilcorp Alaska's Arctic offshore drilling development. Hilcorp plans to build a 9-acre artificial island and 5.6-mile pipeline in the Beaufort Sea for its offshore drilling project. The Trump administration's draft environmental impact statement proposes to greenlight the dangerous drilling plan, which would be a first for federal waters in the Arctic .


Previous Arctic project studies have warned that offshore drilling in those remote, treacherous waters carries a 75 percent chance of a major oil spill. Concerns about the Liberty project were heightened this year when Hilcorp struggled for months to fix leaks in its underwater pipelines in Cook Inlet and meet basic regulatory requirements.

"Arctic offshore drilling can't be done safely, particularly by this company. The icy, stormy waters make Arctic drilling inherently hazardous, and Hilcorp has a history of spills and regulatory violations," said Kristen Monsell, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. "Polar bears, bowhead whales and other imperiled Arctic species will be in terrible danger if the Trump administration allows this reckless project to move forward."

Dipika Kadaba / Center for Biological Diversity

Hilcorp's Liberty project is poised to be the first oil development project in federal Arctic waters. It was originally proposed by oil giant BP, but it is now being pursued as part of the Texas-based company's rapid expansion of its fossil fuel holdings in Alaska, including leasing 14 new federal offshore tracts in Cook Inlet for more than $3 million this summer.

In recent years federal regulators have warned the company to improve maintenance of its gas pipelines, and Alaska's state regulators have fined Hilcorp more than any other company and said "disregard for regulatory compliance is endemic to Hilcorp's approach to its Alaska operations." The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has repeatedly cited Hilcorp for violating safety regulations for its oil and gas operations in the state.

"Nobody needs Arctic oil. Most of the world understands that, but Trump and Hilcorp just don't get it," Monsell said. "The Arctic has largely been off limits to dangerous oil drilling, and it has to stay that way."

18 August 2017. Rover Pipeline Sets Record for Environmental Violations

Energy Transfer Partners ' controversial $4.3 billion Rover pipeline has more negative inspection reports than any other major interstate natural gas pipeline built in the last two years, according to a new Bloomberg analysis.

The 713-mile pipeline, which will carry fracked gas across Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Michigan and Canada, has been stalled from numerous environmental violations, including a 2 million gallon drilling fluid spill into an Ohio wetland in April.


Rover has accrued 104 violations since construction of the $4.2 billion project in started in March.

That's more negative reports than the next four pipeline projects combined, including William's Virginia Southside Expansion (26 reports), Enbridge's Algonquin Incremental Market (24), Williams' Dalton Expansion (23) and Endbridges Sabal Trail (18).

In May, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rejected Energy Transfer's request to resume horizontal directional drilling at two sites for the Rover Pipeline after numerous leaks into Ohio's wetlands as well as various Clean Air and Clean Water act violations across the state.

Blackstone announced last month it was spending $1.57 billion for a 32 percent stake in the troubled project.

"Rover will be built in compliance with all safety and environmental regulations and in some instances we will exceed those requirements," Energy Transfer spokeswoman Alexis Daniel told Bloomberg in response to the violation tally.

Energy Transfer owns about 71,000 miles of natural gas, natural gas liquids, refined products and crude oil pipelines across the country and is the same company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline . Citing numbers from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, TheStreet reported in June that the Dallas-based firm spilled hazardous liquids near water crossings more than twice the frequency of any other U.S. pipeline company this decade.

But spills are not the only problem. A June study by Oil Change International highlighted how the Rover pipeline will fuel a massive increase in climate pollution, causing as much greenhouse gas pollution as 42 coal -fired power plants—some 145 million metric tons per year.

17 August 2017. Yet Another Reminder that Dirty Oil Pipelines Are Never Safe

By Catherine Collentine

In March of 2013, ExxonMobil's Pegasus Pipeline sprung a leak, spilling an estimated 210,000 gallons of toxic tar sands crude into a residential neighborhood of Mayflower, Arkansas.

This week, a federal court ruled that the Obama administration over-penalized Exxon for dumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of a pollutant onto the streets of Mayflower and threw out a number of safety violations levied against Exxon on the basis that the company met its legal obligations to consider the risks associated with the pipeline .


In the court's decision, Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod noted, "The unfortunate fact of the matter is that, despite adherence to safety guidelines and regulations, oil spills still do occur."

Just think about that for a minute. The court ruled that even if a pipeline spill devastates a community, if the company can prove they followed safety guidelines, they shouldn't be held accountable for the damage they caused. That oil spills that threaten communities across the country are to be expected—just the "unfortunate" price we all have to pay for oil companies to transport their dirty product to market.

We've long argued that it's never a question of if a pipeline will spill, but when, and how much damage it will cause when it does. A recent report from Greenpeace bears this out, analyzing the track records of the companies behind major proposed tar sands pipeline projects including Keystone XL and the Line 3 pipeline expansion. These three companies, TransCanada, Kinder Morgan, Enbridge, and their subsidiaries, have had 373 spills from their pipelines in the U.S. since 2010. That's an average of one significant incident and a total of about 570 barrels of oil spilled per year for every 1,000 miles of pipe. Based on these rates, Keystone XL could expect 59 significant spills over its 50-year lifetime and the Line 3 expansion could expect about 51.

As we await decisions from local regulators on the fates of the Keystone XL and Line 3 pipelines, it is clear that dirty oil pipelines are not in the interest of the communities they would run through and should be rejected.

Catherine Collentine is a tar sands campaign representative for the Sierra Club .

17 August 2017. Fracking Giant Sues Dimock Resident for $5M for Speaking to Media About Water Contamination

Ever since the dangerous consequences of natural gas extraction via hydraulic fracturing—popularly known as " fracking "—entered the national consciousness, the small town of Dimock, Pennsylvania has arguably been "ground zero" for water contamination caused by the controversial practice.

Now Cabot Oil & Gas, the massive energy company responsible for numerous fracking wells near Dimock, is suing one of the town's residents for $5 million, claiming that his efforts to "attract media attention" to the pollution of his water well have "harmed" the company. According to the lawsuit, Dimock resident Ray Kemble's actions breached an earlier 2012 settlement that was part of an ongoing federal class action lawsuit over the town's water quality. Kemble has stated that Cabot's fracking turned his groundwater "black, like mud, [with] a strong chemical odor."


Earlier this year, Kemble filed a follow-up lawsuit against Cabot, which was based on new findings that could help him prove the link between Cabot's fracking operation and the contamination of his well. Cabot, at the time, argued that the case was built on "inflammatory allegations" intended to "poison the jury pool" and "extort payment" from the company.

Kemble eventually dropped his lawsuit, acting in response to new information that he thought might negatively affect the case. Kemble's lawyers have declined to comment on the nature of that information. Cabot alleged that this lawsuit was a breach of the 2012 settlement contract Kemble had signed, prompting them to counter-sue Kemble.

Cabot's decision to sue Ray Kemble may be motivated by more than their distaste for his now-dismissed lawsuit. In context, it appears meant to intimidate and "send a message" to Kemble and any other resident thinking of voicing similar concerns and objections. Days before Cabot's lawsuit against Kemble was filed, the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR) arrived in Dimock to examine the groundwater of several homes close to Cabot fracking wells, including Kemble's.

Kemble described the state of his groundwater to the Associated Press: "Take a skunk and every household chemical, put it in a blender, puree it for five minutes and take a whiff. It burns the back of your throat, makes you gag, makes you want to puke. It's all still bad. That's why they're back up here."

The ATSDR told the AP that it is testing Dimock's water for bacteria, gases and chemicals in order to "determine if there are drinking water quality issues that may continue to pose a health threat." Their previous study in 2012 found high levels of chemicals such as methane , cadmium, lead and arsenic. They also found that several residences were "at risk of explosion or fire" due to high methane levels. In the past, several drinking water wells in Dimock have exploded due to the high amount of methane now present in the town's water.

Dimock residents have been expressing concern over the quality of their water for nearly a decade. In 2009, Pennsylvania state officials determined that Cabot Oil & Gas was responsible for the contamination, though the EPA complicated this decision by announcing in 2012 that Dimock's water was "safe" to drink. The EPA arrived at this conclusion despite the fact that its investigators—along with the ATSDR— had found "significant damage to the water quality" due to the presence of nearby fracking wells.

Reposted with permission from our media associate MintPress News .

17 August 2017. Baby Dolphin Dies After Beachgoers Pull It From Water For Selfies

Not again ! A baby dolphin died last Friday in southern Spain after beachgoers took the mammal out of the water and passed it around for photos, according to media reports.

The incident was detailed in several Facebook posts from Equinac , a Spanish marine wildlife conservation group.


The organization said the dolphin was stranded on the beach when a mob of "curious" people quickly gathered to touch it and to take photos of it rather than seek help for it.

A concerned beachgoer eventually called for emergency services, but the dolphin died before rescuers got to the scene.

"Once again we note that the human being is the most irrational species that exists," Equinac wrote on Facebook.

"There are many [who are] incapable of empathy for a living being that is alone, scared, starved, without his mother and terrified ... All you want to do is to photograph and poke, even if the animal suffers from stress."

The dolphin might have been sick before it was spotted by humans. However, Equinac said that just the act of handling and photographing it might have caused "a very high stress state" and for it to go into shock.

Two similar incidents happened in Argentina last year. Last year, beachgoers pulled out a young Franciscana dolphin for photos. It happened again to another baby dolphin in January.

"While traveling, tourists must remember that their once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity with a wild animal can mean horrific suffering—and in this case, a tragic death for this poor animal," Neil D'Cruze, World Animal Protection 's senior wildlife advisor, told EcoWatch in a statement about the latest dolphin death.

"Using wild animals for entertainment, including catching them to take selfies, is wrong, often illegal, and causes great distress to animals. Wild animals are not photo props. They should be left to live free in the wild where they belong."

World Animal Protection has issued a travel guide on how to best interact with animals in their natural habitat.

17 August 2017. Greenpeace Activists Interrupt Operations at Arctic Oil Drilling Site

Peaceful activists, including one American, from a Greenpeace ship, the Arctic Sunrise, have stalled Statoil's oil operations in the Barents Sea off the Norwegian coast. The activists entered the exclusion zone of Statoil's oil rig, Songa Enabler in the Barents Sea with kayaks and inflatable boats, while swimmers protested in the water with banners.

The activists plan to sustain the peaceful protest to stall Statoil's oil drilling as long as possible to send a message that the Norwegian government is failing its commitments to Norway's constitution and the Paris agreement . They are also displaying a constructed giant globe in front of the rig with written statements to the government.


Thirty-five activists from 25 countries are escalating a peaceful protest after tailing the rig for one month in the Barents Sea.

The Norwegian government has recently opened up a new oil frontier in the Arctic . The state-owned oil company has just started to drill for oil at the Korpfjell well, a controversial site 415 kilometers from land. It is close to the ice edge and an important feeding areas for seabirds. This is the first opening of new areas for oil drillings in 20 years and it is the northernmost area licensed by Norway.

Kayaktivists ( pictured left to right ), Hanna Jauhiainen of Finland, Miriam Friedrich from Austria, Andreas Widlund form Sweden, and Dalia Kellou from Austria. Nick Cobbing / Greenpeace

The Norwegian government granted new oil licenses, as part of the 23rd license round, in the Arctic last summer, just 10 days after they ratified the Paris agreement.

"As an American and global citizen, Trump's decision to retreat from the Paris climate agreement and boost fossil fuels at the expense of people around the world was devastating. Likewise, we see the Norwegian government opening new oil areas in the Arctic at full throttle, in spite of knowing the dangers it will have for future generations," Britt Baker, Greenpeace USA activist, said.

"The major difference between the situation in the U.S and Norway is that Trump left the Paris agreement with tunnel-vision motives to extend handouts to the flailing fossil fuel industry. Norway may as well have left the Paris agreement given the Norwegian's government desire to accelerate fossil fuel production. This government is showing the same disrespect to global climate commitments as Trump," Baker added.

The Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise is in the Norwegian Arctic to document, expose and challenge the Norwegian government and Statoil's aggressive search for new oil in the Barents Sea. Nick Cobbing / Greenpeace

Greenpeace and its co-plaintiff Nature and Youth are taking the government to court in November, arguing that the new oil licenses are in breach of the Norwegian Constitution's right to a healthy environment (Article 112). Despite the ongoing legal case, Statoil is drilling several new oil wells in the Arctic this summer.

Nick Cobbing / Greenpeace

"Norway is not as green as their image. With one hand, the government have signed the Paris agreement and profiled themselves as an environmental champion, whilst handing out hundreds of new oil blocks in the Arctic with the other," Erlend Tellnes, Greenpeace Norway Arctic campaigner from on board the Arctic Sunrise, said.

"They ignore and disrespect environmental, scientific recommendations and have offered the oil industry licenses in some of the most pristine areas of the Arctic. Now they have to answer for their actions in court."

More than 150,000 people have joined the call in the past month to the Norwegian government to respect the Norwegian Constitution and the Paris agreement, bringing the total number to 355,000.

Watch Facebook Live video of the action here:

17 August 2017. Trump Eliminates Plastic Water Bottle Ban in National Parks, Removes White House Bikeshare Station

President Trump has made sweeping efforts to scrap Obama-era environmental protections, but the current administration's latest moves are oddly specific.

The National Park Service (NPS) announced Wednesday that it has rescinded the 2011 "Water Bottle Ban" that allowed parks to prohibit the sale of disposable plastic water bottles. That same day, news emerged that the Trump administration removed a nine-slot Capital Bikeshare station at the White House that was requested and installed during the Obama years and used by staffers.


The NPS said that the bottled water ban "removed the healthiest beverage choice at a variety of parks while still allowing sales of bottled sweetened drinks." Revocation of the 2011 memorandum is effective immediately.

"While we will continue to encourage the use of free water bottle filling stations as appropriate, ultimately it should be up to our visitors to decide how best to keep themselves and their families hydrated during a visit to a national park, particularly during hot summer visitation periods," acting NPS director Michael T. Reynolds explained.

According to the Wilderness Society , 23 national parks had adopted the policy, including Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Zion National Park. The group said the Water Bottle Ban—an effort under President Obama's Green Parks Plan to promote the use of tap water and refillable bottles on federal lands—helped parks "simultaneously reduce park waste and carbon emissions."

But as the San Francisco Chronicle reported, the water bottle ban was opposed by the beverage industry that had long lobbied to change the policy.

Watchdog groups criticized the initiative. "Just as we've seen across the board with the Trump administration, this is an example of the industry working behind the scenes to protect its profits," Lauren DeRusha Florez, associate campaign director at Corporate Accountability International , told the Chronicle. "Plastic water bottles have a tremendous environmental impact."

Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch , was far from pleased with the announcement. "This action puts the NPS firmly on the side of major corporations that make up the bulk of the bottled water industry," she said. "This latest move is yet another attempt to weaken the policies that protect our vital, vulnerable natural resources."

Meanwhile, Trump has also nixed a Capital Bikeshare dock on 17th Street and State Place that was set up in 2010.

District Department of Transportation spokesperson Terry Owens told the Washingtonian that the station was removed earlier this week at the Trump administration's request.

It's unclear what the White House had against the bikeshare station. One suggestion, a DC resident explained to Breitbart , is that the Trump administration wanted to trim spending. Trump's budget proposal in May cuts funds for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) act, which funded construction for many of DC's Capital Bikeshare stations, the Right-wing publication pointed out.

On the other hand, as Raw Story noted, "Capital Bikeshare users average saving $631 per year on personal travel cost , meaning the removal of the 9-slot station could cost White House staff $5,679 in increased transportation expenditures."

Here are some responses to the move on social media:

17 August 2017. Dr. Hyman: 4 Reasons Why You're Not Losing Weight

A reader tweeted, "I lost 30 lbs on The Blood Sugar Solution program. Now, I am following the guidelines from Eat Fat, Get Thin for the next 30 days. NO sugar/carbs—all veggies, proteins, good fats—but seeing much slower weight loss this time."

Weight loss plateaus are a very common and frustrating issue. When I am working with someone who is having trouble losing weight, despite doing everything right, there are a few things I look at, to see if we can uncover why they are hitting a weight loss plateau.


Here are four of the most common reasons for a resistance to weight loss:

1. Nutritional Imbalances

Let's first talk about nutritional imbalances. Studies show these deficiencies are more widespread than you might imagine. More than 30 percent of American diets fall short in nutrients like magnesium and Vitamins C, E and A. More than 80 percent of Americans have low Vitamin D levels. Nine out of 10 people are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids which, among other things, help cool inflammation and control blood sugar levels.

Simply put, Americans have been overfed and undernourished for a very long time. In fact, most obese children and adults are actually malnourished. While that might sound contradictory, an abundance of calories does not necessarily deliver the nutrients that your body needs. Actually, the very opposite is true: overeating can create nutrient deficiencies.

You can eat too many calories and too few nutrients. And guess what—you need vitamins and minerals to process all those empty calories. Low nutritional status = a poorly functioning metabolism.

Nutrition-based treatment can often help reset your metabolism. You can work with a Functional Medicine doctor or a Functional Nutritionist to test for these deficiencies and put together a plan to correct them.

At The UltraWellness Center , my private practice, we focus on nutrition, using food as medicine and work on achieving balance in all of the systems in the body so that it functions optimally. Our Functional Nutritionists can work with you remotely to detect nutritional imbalances and support your body's natural ability to heal.

2. Gut Microbe Imbalances

We have more than 1,000 species of bugs in our gut, and bacteria cells out number our own cells 10 times over. That's a lot of hitchhikers!

We call this the microbiome—it's the place where all these beneficial bacteria live and work within us to maintain a healthy gut.

From both an animal and human models, we know that the bacteria in our gut can have profound effects on weight and metabolism, through many types of mechanisms. Some bacteria extract more energy from food, leading to weight gain, while other bacteria will extract less energy from your food, leading to weight loss. Studies have shown that taking the gut bacteria from a thin mouse and putting it into a fat mouse can cause the fat mouse to lose dramatic amounts of weight without changing its diet.

Some bacteria trigger inflammation leading to a leaky gut, while others are anti-inflammatory. Inflammation triggers insulin resistance and diabetes, independent of your caloric intake. So, clearly, it's important to heal your gut if it is damaged by imbalances. I typically recommend working with a Functional Medicine practitioner , but there are some things you can do on your own to cultivate a healthy microbiome.

1. Eat whole, unprocessed, unrefined foods. One of the best ways to maintain gut health involves cutting out the sugar and refined carbs and jacking up gut-supporting fiber.

2. 75 percent of your plate should be vegetables and plant-based foods. Your gut bugs really love these high-fiber plant foods.

3. Eat good fats and get an oil change. The good fats we mentioned earlier (like omega-3 fats and monounsaturated fats, such as extra-virgin olive oil) will help with decreasing inflammation, giving healthy gut bugs a chance to flourish.

4. Supplement smartly. Studies find omega-3 fatty acids can support healthy gut flora , aside from their other numerous benefits, like reducing inflammation. If you're not regularly eating wild-caught fatty fish, you should definitely supplement with an essential fatty acids formula . Take a strong probiotic supplement as well. This helps reduce gut inflammation while cultivating health and the growth of good bacteria.You can find professional-quality formulas in my online store .

5. Add more coconut. Studies demonstrate anti-inflammatory and weight loss benefits from adding Medium Chain Triglyceride or MCT oils. Some of my favorite fats, coconut oil and coconut butter, contains these fabulous fat-burning MCTs.
Remove inflammatory fats. Cut out bad, inflammatory omega-6 rich fats like vegetable oils. Replace these with healthier oils like extra-virgin olive oil and coconut oil.

6. Add fiber-rich foods. Nuts, seeds, and a special fiber called glucomannan provide prebiotics and feed our healthy bacteria.
Add fermented foods. Sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh and miso contain good amounts of probiotics so your healthy gut bugs can be fruitful and multiply.

3. Inflammation and Immune Function

Science now clearly identifies chronic disease and aging as a state of inflammation. And it's not just allergies, asthma, arthritis or autoimmunity that are the causes of inflammation.We now know that diabetes and obesity are inflammatory problems, as are heart disease, cancer, depression, autism and dementia.

Your fat cells produce inflammatory molecules that perpetuate weight gain and disease. Other factors can trigger weight-gain inducing inflammation, independent of caloric intake. There are many other triggers for inflammation that also promote weight gain—including:

  • a poor-quality processed diet that is high in sugar and omega-6 refined oils and low in fiber.

All of these trigger inflammation, which then creates insulin resistance and promotes weight gain.

The Blood Sugar Solution and Eat Fat, Get Thin are designed to be powerful anti-inflammatory programs. Learning to identify the various hidden sources of inflammation is often critical for those who are stuck in the vicious cycle of the dreaded plateau.

4. Environmental Toxins

Many doctors look down on the whole idea of detoxification. But if you were to ask them what happens when your kidneys or liver fail, or if you're constipated for weeks on end, you'd quickly find out just how important the detoxification process really is. Detoxification is a natural process that occurs all the time in the body, though our personal ability to detoxify can become hindered for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, in our modern world, we are exposed to a huge burden of toxins from our environment and our diet.

These toxins, including plastics, pesticides, phthalates, bisphenol A, flame retardants, metals like mercury, lead, arsenic—and any one of the 80,000 chemicals introduced into our world since the industrial revolution—have been shown to interfere with metabolism and cause weight gain even in the absence of extra calories. These environmental toxins are called obesogens .

There are many mechanisms by which toxins promote weight gain—affecting your metabolism, your hormones and your brain function. Reducing your exposure to environmental toxins is entirely possible. There is a lot you can do to cut your exposure to toxins and help your body eliminate the ones it may already contain.

  • Eat organic when you can and follow the Environmental Working Group's list of the "Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen." This list helps identify the fruits and vegetables that are more or less likely to contain agricultural chemical residues.
  • Stop eating mercury. Avoid big fish with lots of mercury—such as tuna and swordfish.
  • Eat clean, organic animal products by choosing grass-fed or pasture-raised animals that haven't been exposed to hormones or antibiotics. These responsibly raised products cost more, but the reduced exposure to these additives and toxins is well worth the cost.
  • Be sure to filter your water. Use a carbon or reverse osmosis filter to get rid of hidden contaminants in your water supply. Drink eight glasses of filtered water every single day.
  • Eating lots of fiber helps you poop at least once a day—this a very important part of the detoxification process!
  • Add 1 to 2 cups of cruciferous vegetables daily to assist with detoxification. This includes foods like broccoli, kale and bok choy and lots of garlic, onions, ginger and turmeric.
  • Don't forget to sweat—this is the body's natural mechanism to excrete toxins—so I recommend getting outside to play or participating in your favorite exercise—or go relax in a sauna!

When I work with my patients who are experiencing a weight loss plateau, these are the first four things I immediately take into consideration. Remember, Functional Medicine assesses the root cause of the problem and treats the whole system to quiet and cool the flames of inflammation, leading to weight loss and overall good health.

17 August 2017. Collusion or Coincidence? Records Show EPA Slowed Glyphosate Review in Coordination With Monsanto

By Carey Gillam

Newly released government email communications show a persistent effort by multiple officials within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to slow a separate federal agency's safety review of Monsanto's top-selling herbicide. Notably, the records demonstrate that the EPA efforts came at the behest of Monsanto, and that EPA officials were helpful enough to keep the chemical giant updated on their progress.

The communications, most of which were obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, show that it was early 2015 when the EPA and Monsanto began working in concert to stall a toxicology review that a unit of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was conducting on glyphosate , the key ingredient in Monsanto's branded Roundup herbicide products. The details revealed in the documents come as Monsanto is defending itself against allegations that it has tried to cover up evidence of harm with its herbicides.


The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a federal public health agency within the CDC that is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is charged with evaluating the potential adverse human health effects from exposures to hazardous substances in the environment. So it made sense for the ATSDR to take a look at glyphosate, which is widely used on U.S. farms, residential lawns and gardens, school playgrounds and golf courses. Glyphosate is widely used in food production and glyphosate residues have been found in testing of human urine.

The ATSDR announced in February 2015 that it planned to publish a toxicological profile of glyphosate by October of that year. But by October, that review was on hold, and to this date no such review has yet been published.

The documents reveal this was no accident, no bureaucratic delay, but rather was the result of a collaborative effort between Monsanto and a group of high-ranking EPA officials.

"These new documents are particularly alarming because they prove that Monsanto's efforts to capture EPA and subvert it's mission to safeguard public-health were largely successful," said Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. , an environmental lawyer who is representing plaintiffs pursuing claims against Monsanto.

"Those schemes allowed the company to pull puppet strings and exercise pervasive control at the supervisory level across several agency branches."

For Monsanto, the timing of the ATSDR review was worrisome. In March 2015, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) had declared glyphosate to be a probable human carcinogen , and Monsanto feared ATSDR might have similar concerns about the chemical. Previous reports have described how one EPA official, Jess Rowland, communicated to Monsanto in April 2015 his willingness to try to kill the ATSDR review. Rowland, who retired in 2016, was the deputy division director within the health effects division of the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs. Allegations of collusion between Rowland and Monsanto have prompted a probe by the EPA's Office of Inspector General.

But the trove of documents newly obtained from within EPA and HHS demonstrate that the assistance to Monsanto came not only from Rowland but also from even higher-level EPA officials. Rather than encourage and assist the toxicology review of glyphosate, Monsanto and EPA officials repeatedly complained to ATSDR and HHS that such a review was unnecessarily "duplicative" and should take a back seat to an EPA review also underway.

The following timeline shows how the events unfolded:

May 19, 2015: Michael Dykes, who at that time was Monsanto's long-time vice president of government affairs, wrote directly to the EPA's Jim Jones , the Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety & Pollution Prevention. Jones had oversight of the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs and was a presidential appointee who carried significant clout. The afternoon was waning when the email came in at 3:28 p.m. Dykes reminded Jones that they had recently discussed the HHS' ATSDR glyphosate review at a meeting. "You were not aware of their review. Did you learn anything more about their efforts?" Dykes asked.

Jones did not waste time. Roughly an hour later he forwarded the message to his second in command, Office of Pesticide Programs Director Jack Housenger, writing "Monsanto thinks atsdr is doing a glyphosate Assessment. Could you guys run that down?" Housenger responds quickly: "Yes. Jess checked with them ... It has been difficult to get information."

Within an hour Jones instructed a member of his staff to get him contact information for the head person responsible for ATSDR. She replied the next morning that Dr. Patrick Breysse was the point person. Breysse joined the CDC in 2014 as director of its National Center for Environmental Health, overseeing the NCEH's ATSDR.

May 20, 2015: It was only a little after 8:30 a.m. but Jones told the staff member to instruct Housenger to get in touch with Breysse, and within two hours Housenger had penned an email to Breysse explaining that an EPA's own re-evaluation/risk assessment of glyphosate was nearing completion, and asking Breysse if "you would still feel the need to do your assessment." Housenger told Breysse that he already had reached the individual assigned to the ATSDR assessment and she had indicated she would "coordinate" with EPA, but that was not sufficient. Housenger did not mention Monsanto's outreach to EPA on the issue, but instead questioned "whether this is a good use of government resources" for ATSDR to continue with its review. Breysse responded that he would "look into this" and Housenger thanked him for his quick response. Breysse then reached out to an ATSDR division director named James Stephens to arrange a discussion about the EPA request.

May 21, 2015: James Stephens wrote back to Patrick Breysse that the ATSDR team thought the EPA work "overlaps but isn't totally duplicative…" and stated that the ASTDR team has not been able to see draft copies of the EPA's work. "I think we would all welcome further discussion with EPA but would hope to use it to help us find out more about what they are doing, " he told Breysse. After hearing from Stephens, Breysse wrote back to Housenger saying ATSDR staff would be in touch to discuss. Housenger replied with his reiteration that the ATSDR review would be a " duplicative government effort " and that the EPA draft would be out in July of 2015. (As of this writing, that EPA preliminary risk assessment still has not been released, though in 2016 the EPA did release a cancer assessment report that declared glyphosate was not likely to cause cancer.)

June 4, 2015: Pressing the issue , EPA's Housenger wrote again to Breysee to say he had not heard from anyone yet. The ATSDR's Stephens wrote back promising to make sure "someone gives you a ring." Internal Monsanto emails show that at the same time, Monsanto was also pushing the "duplicative" narrative with HHS, meeting on June 4 with HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Global Health Mitchel Wolfe to ask him to help repudiate the IARC classification and to recognize that a review of glyphosate was "not the primary role" for his agency. "Dr. Wolfe said he would follow up on what was going on with ATSDR and he was encouraged to have discussions with EPA staff, as well," a Monsanto memo detailing the meeting states.

June 9, 2015: Henry Abadin, an ATSDR supervisory scientist, reported to Stephens that he had talked with Housenger and explained that the agency did not believe it was "duplicating efforts." Nevertheless, he said he told EPA, "we did not have a problem with putting the glyphosate profile on hold, pending the OPP [Office of Pesticide Programs] final report."

June 19, 2015: To further ensure the ATSDR review didn't move forward, Monsanto's Dykes talked again with HHS's Wolfe, asking for an update on ATSDR. "I explained… our question was about the purpose and scope of such a duplicative review by ATSDR. I also told him that we were concerned that ATSDR may come out any day with a report. I again stressed that we were concerned that they were even reviewing glyphosate as were the people we talked with at EPA," Dykes wrote to colleagues.

June 21, 2015: It was a Sunday, but Monsanto's Dykes was still concerned enough about the ATSDR review to copy multiple colleagues on a late night email to report that he had continued to press the "duplicative" point with ATSDR but was concerned about a "glyphosate review coming any day." In a text message sent that same day, Monsanto Eric Sachs reached out to a former EPA toxicologist named Mary Manibusan asking for contacts at ATSDR. "We're trying to do everything we can to keep from having a domestic IARC occur w this group. may need your help," Sachs wrote. The text messages were among certain internal Monsanto records obtained by cancer victims who are suing Monsanto alleging Roundup caused their diseases.

June 23, 2015: By Tuesday, Monsanto's Jenkins had good news: He had heard from Housenger that the EPA official had been successful in garnering a promise from ATSDR to put its report "on hold." The review was not dead, however, he wrote : ATSDR argues "that their process is distinguishable and not duplicative. They look at different endpoints and told EPA they don't "make a call on cancer", but I think we should continue to be cautious."

On June 24, 2015: Monsanto's chief scientist William Heydens responded: "'Distinguishable and not duplicative'? Seriously? And I will believe the not 'making a call on cancer' part when I see it. Anyway, at least they know they are being watched, and hopefully that keeps them from doing anything too stupid..." Jenkins wrote back, acknowledging that Monsanto had much more to fear from ATSDR than EPA as the two agencies had arrived at "different conclusions" on other issues. He reported he had been told ATSDR was "VERY conservative and IARC like…"

By October 23, 2015: EPA and Monsanto had the ATSDR review fully on hold. EPA's Housenger wrote to update Monsanto's Jenkins: "They are waiting for our glyphosate RA. And they agreed to share what they do."

That same month, the EPA's Cancer Assessment Review Committee (CARC), which was chaired by Rowland, issued an internal report stating that contrary to IARC, the EPA's review of glyphosate found it " not likely to be carcinogenic to humans."

The EPA still has yet to issue the overall new risk assessment it said would be out in 2015. The agency has offered ever-changing timelines for the assessment, but now says it intends to release a draft risk assessment sometime this year. That will be followed by a 60-day public comment period. After the public comment period, the EPA will determine whether any risk management is needed. In the meantime, Monsanto has cited the EPA's backing of glyphosate safety as repudiation of the IARC finding both in court and with regulators in Europe who are also looking at glyphosate safety issues.

The EPA did not respond to a request for comment about its efforts to delay the ATSDR report or communications with Monsanto regarding that effort.

But Brent Wisner, a lawyer representing many of the cancer victims who are suing Monsanto, said the documents offer damning evidence of close ties between the EPA and the chemical company.

"I think it's very clear… that EPA officials and Monsanto employees worked together to accomplish a goal of stopping that analysis at ATSDR. That is collusion. I don't know what else you'd call that," said Wisner.

For its part, the ATSDR said this week that the review it started in 2015 "is not complete," but that it anticipates a draft glyphosate toxicological profile to be issued for public comment by the end of this year. A spokesperson for the agency declined to discuss the circumstances surrounding the delay in the review.

And Jones, whose EPA job ended when the Trump administration took over, defended his responsiveness to Monsanto's concern about the ATSDR review, saying it had only to do with the "efficient use of government resources."

"Had any party contacted me and informed me that another agency within the administration was simultaneously assessing a chemical as my organization, I would have intervened," Jones said. "There is no value to the same government investing limited resources to work on the same issue. As you know resources at the federal level were and are scarce which made duplication even more problematic."

Jones said additionally that "when two organizations assess the same chemical, it is very likely there will be differences in their assessments. Even when these differences don't matter from a public health perspective, an enormous amount of energy is spent attempting to resolve these differences" and that is not ultimately in the "public interest."

17 August 2017. Fracking Debate Ramps Up Again in Illinois With First Permit Application Under New Rules

By Kari Lydersen

Four years ago, the Illinois legislature passed a law to regulate high volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking , after months of contentious negotiations between oil industry interests, environmental watchdogs and community groups.

Leading up to the law's passage, companies had secured hundreds of leases to potentially frack in Southern Illinois.


But then oil prices dropped, and the eagerness to tap the state's New Albany Shale faded.

This summer, the filing for the first permit under the new rules has reignited debate over fracking in Illinois and concerns over the law's ability to protect citizens and the environment. Environmental and citizen groups say that this permit will be a test case as to how rigorously the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) will seek to enforce the law.

In the spring, the Kansas-based, family-owned company Woolsey Energy filed for a permit to frack in White County in southeastern Illinois. Advocates criticized that permit as incomplete and inconsistent, and the department sent Woolsey back to the drawing board.

Woolsey submitted a revised permit application this summer, with the public comment period closing this month. Environmental advocates say the revised permit is still sorely lacking required information, and they are urging the IDNR to reject it.

"The company still did not provide the required information, putting public health and safety, groundwater, topsoil and other resources at potential risk," said Karen Hobbs, senior policy analyst for the water program of the Natural Resources Defense Council 's Midwest office. "How IDNR handles this application will set the benchmark for the program's future and ultimately determine if it is successful."

Opening the door?

The Illinois law was hailed as among the nation's strictest when it passed, though some local groups opposed it and instead demanded a ban on fracking.

"We don't want to see the door opened to fracking in the state," said Illinois People's Action environmental organizer Dawn Dannenbring. "The law is not strong enough to protect Illinoisans from the dangers of fracking. One of the biggest problems is because of the way the law was set up, if all the I's are dotted and T's are crossed, then the IDNR has to issue the permit."

But Dannenbring and other groups say the I's and T's are far from dotted and crossed in Woolsey's permit application, which "does not follow the letter or the spirit of the law," as Dannenbring put it.

She feels the company intentionally submitted a "shoddy permit" with the expectation that environmental groups would "bring up issues one at a time" and then the IDNR would essentially walk the company through addressing them. "That's a waste of time and taxpayer money," Dannenbring said. "The IDNR exists to protect us, not to serve Woolsey."

Critics say the law is only as good as the IDNR's willingness to enforce it by denying permit applications that don't meet its requirements, and they don't think companies should be given multiple second chances to submit a permit.

"We will find out what kind of IDNR we have," said Stephen Nickels, who lives in Johnson County, Illinois, where he said companies had previously acquired 199 leases for fracking. "Is it looking out for the people of Illinois, or for the profits of an individual from Kansas?"

Mark Sooter, Woolsey vice president of business development, declined to respond to specific concerns or criticisms from opponents. The IDNR did not respond to a request for comment.

Missing information

Among other things, critics say Woolsey's proposed permit lacks a sufficient plan to deal with the toxic flowback water that comes from fracking, an explanation of how flowback volume was calculated, specific details on where fracking will occur and an explanation of chemicals that will be used.

The law allows companies to invoke trade secrets in withholding information about chemicals used in fracking. Woolsey's permit says the trade secrets exemption will not be invoked, but then lists trade secrets as a reason not to reveal the chemical makeup of some components, without explaining why trade secrets apply in those cases.

Critics also note that Woolsey proposes to use significantly more water than the amount normally considered necessary for fracking, and the company offers no plans to reduce water use or recycle water.

"Woolsey proposes to use 7.5 million gallons of local groundwater in its treatment operation versus the most commonly reliable figure of 4.4 million to 5 million gallons per well," said Hobbs. "The company gives no justification for this exceptionally large use of groundwater, asking the state and residents to trust that it is not in its interest to overuse water."

Hobbs' public comment also pointed out that Woolsey describes a certain area as both the target of fracking and the "frac barrier" that is supposed to prevent the flow of polluted groundwater.

"The company says the frac barrier and the production zone will serve both functions, which is impossible," she said. "It's another indication of how poorly written and incomplete the application is."

Earthquakes and integrity

Opponents also say the permit does not include adequate information about the risk of earthquakes in the area, including from the nearby Wabash Valley fault .

Nickels and his wife live on her family's farm about 50 miles from the area covered by Woolsey's permit. Nickels, who previously owned a stock trading company in the Chicago area, noted that their homeowners' insurance policy does not cover earthquakes caused by humans.

In public comments filed with the IDNR, Nickels said Woolsey's permit should be denied under a section of the fracking law that says the state can suspend, revoke or refuse to issue permits to companies demonstrating "untrustworthiness" and "incompetence."

He thinks the terms describe Woolsey. He cited reports that in Kansas, Woolsey injected diesel oil for fracking without obtaining a permit that is required because of the health risks posed by that method. The Topeka Capital Journal quoted company president Wayne Woolsey denying they used diesel to frack, saying they used only water, sand and a "friction inhibitor." The paper quoted Woolsey saying, "If you took the sand out, you could drink that stuff."

Nickels also pointed to a blow-out at a Woolsey drilling operation in Wayne County, Illinois on January 27, 2014 that resulted in a violation notice from the Illinois EPA and reportedly injured two workers.

"Integrity is like virginity, you can only lose it once," Nickels said. "If they can't file a reasonable permit for the very first fracking permit in Illinois, then they are untrustworthy and incompetent and the permit should be denied. If they can't file an adequate permit, how can we trust them to do fracking without injuring their workers or harming the environment?"

Financial questions

The only other company to file a permit application in the wake of the law's passage withdrew their application, and it still seems far from certain that Woolsey or any other company will really want to start fracking in Illinois.

Fracking can be used to capture natural gas or oil from shale formations that don't yield the fossil fuel under traditional drilling methods. Illinois' New Albany Shale would be tapped for oil, which seemed highly attractive in 2008 when oil prices were more than $150 a barrel, and even in early 2014 at more than $100 per barrel. Today, prices hover in the mid-$40s per barrel.

Sooter said Woolsey needs this permit to be able to explore the financial potential of fracking the New Albany Shale, and depending on the results they will decide whether to seek to frack more widely. He said the requirements of the state law will make the bar higher for deciding whether to proceed.

"It is much more time-consuming and much more costly than the state we've historically worked in, which is Kansas, where you can get a horizontal [fracking] permit in less than a week," Sooter said.

"We had a learning curve we had to go through [in Illinois], so it's taken an exorbitant amount of time. That's one of the reasons other companies have decided not to pursue a well in Illinois under the fracking regulations—because of the difficult nature of it. Our opinion was that we hopefully can learn how to deal with the permit process, and if the reserves are there and it's economic enough, we will get through the permit process."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Midwest Energy News .

17 August 2017. Loss of Arctic Sea Ice Causes Earliest Pacific Walrus Haul Out Ever

Hundreds of Pacific walruses have hauled out of Arctic waters near Alaska's Point Lay due to declining sea ice levels, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Wednesday. It's the earliest haul out the agency has ever seen, and scientists fear a repeat of stampedes that have killed hundreds of walruses in recent years.

Loss of sea ice from climate change is a major reason why the Center for Biological Diversity has petitioned the federal government to protect Pacific walruses under the Endangered Species Act. A final listing decision from Fish and Wildlife is expected within the next month.


"This early haul out shows that Pacific walruses are in terrible trouble," said Emily Jeffers, a Center for Biological Diversity attorney. "If we're going to save these amazing animals, the Trump administration has to give them the protections they need and stop pushing for dangerous oil drilling in the Arctic."

President Trump's decisions to withdraw from the Paris climate accord and consider opening up the Arctic to offshore oil drilling would exacerbate sea ice loss and other threats to Pacific walruses. The Wildlife Service has previously said the Pacific walrus deserves listing under the Endangered Species Act, but it didn't have the resources to proceed with listing, prompting the Center for Biolofical Diversity's lawsuit and the imminent listing decision.

Arctic sea ice extent, on which the Pacific walrus so heavily relies, hit record lows during fall 2016 and winter 2017, and sea ice in the Chukchi Sea off Point Lay retreated at a record rate this May. The sea ice is expected to begin increasing with the end of the summer season, although the National Snow and Ice Data Center cautioned that levels could continue to fall again, as happened in 2010 and 2005.

Local villagers in Point Lay are helping protect the walruses and cautioning the general public against doing anything to scare or disrupt them. Mass walrus haul-outs were first observed in 2007, when Arctic sea-ice extent dropped 1 million square miles below average—losing an area the size of Alaska and Texas combined.

"Trump's hostility to conservation laws and threat to open up the Arctic put Pacific walruses under siege," Jeffers said. "We need to protect this vital, vulnerable region before it's too late."

16 August 2017. Good News for Craft Beer Lovers

By Jeremy Deaton

Henry David Thoreau once said that a glass of beer would "naturalize a man at once—which would make him see green, and, if he slept, dream that he heard the wind sough among the pines."

That quote might as well be emblazoned on every IPA in America. Craft brewers across the country are finding innovative ways to guard the water , soil , air and climate on which their businesses depend.


"I ride my bike across the bridge every morning to the brewery. Underneath that bridge is the river that provides the water for our beer," said Katie Wallace, assistant director of sustainability at the New Belgium Brewing Company . "We're very connected to the resources that provide for us."

Today, New Belgium imposes an internal tax on electricity consumption, and it invests the money raised in conservation and clean power. Its push for clean energy began nearly two decades ago, when employees decided to sacrifice their bonuses to purchase wind energy.

"Jeff Lebesch and Kim Jordan, our founders, didn't just want to go and take that money back that they already promised, so they took it to their coworkers and said, 'It's your decision. If you are willing to give up your profit-sharing, then we can bring wind power to Ft. Collins. And if you aren't, we totally understand,'" said Wallace.

"They left the room, and about 45 minutes later, their coworkers emerged to let them know that they had unanimously agreed to give up any profit-sharing to bring wind power to Ft. Collins," she said. "They felt like it was an opportunity to make a statement that business supports renewable energy ."

Brewing is an energy-intensive task. It takes a lot of power to boil thousands of gallons of water day after day, and that costs money. Beer makers also want to use the best ingredients—the purest water, the finest barley and the most flavorful hops. They are looking for ways to conserve energy and raw materials while protecting the integrity of their product.

Craft brew giant Sierra Nevada has integrated conservation into every step of production. More than 10,000 solar panels help power its California brewery. Another 2,000 supply electricity to its North Carolina facility, as do a pair of microturbines that run on methane captured from the brewery's wastewater treatment plant. Automated sensors turn down lights in the middle of the day when the sun comes pouring through the windows, and advanced brew kettles recycle heat that would otherwise be lost.

During fermentation, yeast turns sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide, which is captured and used to carbonate its beer. Used hops and barley are sold as cattle feed or turned into fertilizer. The final product is packaged in bottles made from recycled glass and shipped in trucks that run on used vegetable oil.

"Craft brewers inherently understand this idea of sustainability," said Cheri Chastain, who manages sustainability at Sierra Nevada and co-chairs the sustainability subcommittee of the Brewers Association , the craft beer trade group, with Wallace. "We've put together some resources to help guide craft brewers," said Chastain. "As a small brewer, you don't have a lot of money. You can't just willy-nilly waste it on things."

Solar panels at Sierra Nevada's California facility Sierra Nevada

Some beer makers have found creative ways to conserve resources. In Hawaii, where freshwater supplies are limited, Kona Brewing uses condensation collected from its air conditioner to water the habaneros and chives used in its small-batch beers. In Alaska, dairy farms are hard to come by, so instead of selling its used malt as cattle feed, Alaskan Brewing uses its spent grain to fuel a steam boiler. Magnolia Brewing and 21st Amendment in San Francisco, by contrast, send their leftovers to ReGrained , a startup that turns old malt into beer-themed snack bars.

Since even the most efficient breweries generate a certain amount of waste and pollution, some beer makers have sought ways to compensate. Last year, Brooklyn Brewery worked with the Arbor Day Foundation to plant trees across hundreds of acres of the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. The trees will soak up carbon dioxide, offsetting pollution generated by the brewery's Williamsburg, Brooklyn operation.

For brewers, climate change is an pressing issue. The Oxford Companion to Beer , edited by Brooklyn brewmaster Garrett Oliver, includes a detailed entry on global warming. It notes that the price of ingredients is "beginning to rise as the agriculture industry is affected by changing weather patterns." It explains that climate change has already hurt the quality of Czech Saaz hops and that additional warming threatens the health of other crops needed to make beer.

"There is a self-selecting nature to the type of person who wants to open a craft brewery. Generally speaking, they care about their communities and the people living in them, which does extend to the world when it comes to climate," said Rob Day, marketing director at Lord Hobo Brewing Company in Boston. He noted that conservation is also good for business. "When you are getting started, you need to save and scratch, and sometimes sustainable practices can save money." (Disclosure: Day is a longtime friend.)

Here, craft brewers have certain advantages. "Independently owned companies have much more freedom to invest in things that a traditional business model would not accept," said Chastain. "According to the Brewers Association, in order to be a craft brewer, you do have to be independently owned."

Today, independence of craft brewers is under threat as beer giants buy up smaller brands. In response, the Brewers Association has introduced an "independent craft brewer seal" to be applied to beer made by small, independently owned breweries. The hope is that consumers will seek out these brands.

For now, the large majority of craft brewers remains independent. And, in contrast to their larger counterparts, they are pushing policymakers to guard America's natural resources.

In February, 32 craft brewers sent a letter urging senators not to confirm Scott Pruitt to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ). "Our breweries cannot operate without reliable, clean water supplies," it read. "We need an EPA administrator who will adopt and enforce policies that protect the water sources we use to make our great-tasting beer."

It's hard to imagine Spuds MacKenzie taking to the halls of Congress, but the new generation of American beer makers are committed conservationists. When President Trump announced the U.S. would leave the Paris agreement , a coalition of mayors, governors, university presidents, businesses and investors pledged they would continue to abide by the terms of the pact. The list includes 10 craft brewers, among them, Deschutes , New Belgium and Sierra Nevada.

"We're speaking up for what we believe in," said Chastain. "If we can add our voice to the conversation, we're happy to do that."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media .

16 August 2017. The Return of UK Fracking and What It Could Mean for the Climate

By Jocelyn Timperley

The UK could soon see its first use of hydraulic fracturing since 2011.

The controversial technique for extracting shale gas and oil, known as fracking , is set to be used by the end of this year at a site in Fylde, Lancashire, owned by UK company Cuadrilla. The firm said it hopes to start drilling within weeks.

But how close is the UK to shale gas production on a large scale? And what would the carbon impacts of this be?


Carbon Brief breaks down the key climate questions facing fracking in the UK.

Has There Been Any Fracking in the UK?

Yes, but not since two tremors near Blackpool were caused by Cuadrilla's fracking operations at its Preese Hall site in 2011.

Fracking involves pumping water mixed with chemicals at high pressure into a well, in order to fracture the surrounding rock and let oil or gas escape. It has been used in the oil industry since the mid-20th century.

However, the technique has only recently become widespread in onshore gas extraction, after advances in horizontal drilling allowed it to be applied to shale resources.

The process began attracting attention in the UK when the government granted the first onshore exploratory licenses for shale gas in 2008.

After the Blackpool tremors were identified in late 2011 as likely to have been caused by fracking, the UK's then-Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) put a moratorium on the practice, until it was better understood.

This was lifted a year later by then-energy secretary Ed Davey, who said exploratory fracking for shale gas could resume, subject to new controls to minimise seismic risks.

The UK already uses small quantities of shale gas and oil. Anglo-Swiss firm Ineos began importing US shale ethane in September last year, for use in the chemical industry. The Isle of Grain terminal on the Thames estuary took the UK's first delivery of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from US shale in early July .

However, the North Sea still produces the vast majority of UK gas supplies. The UK is not expected to be able to compete for U.S. LNG with Asian markets, where prices are higher.

US LNG exports are growing, following a string of approvals granted by the Obama administration. As a result, the U.S. is expected to become a net exporter of gas later this year. Increasing fossil fuel exports is part of U.S. President Donald Trump's plan to achieve what he calls " energy dominance ."

When Will Fracking Next Take Place?

Cuadrilla expects to conduct exploratory fracking later this year at its Preston New Road site in Lancashire, the firm tells Carbon Brief.

Planning consent for Cuadrilla to explore for shale gas at the site using fracking was granted by the government in October 2016 , when it overruled local councillors' rejection .

Cuadrilla started work at the site in January, with the main drilling rig brought on site at the end of July. A spokeswoman for the firm tells Carbon Brief it plans to begin drilling horizontal wells into shale rock this month, with fracking beginning towards the end of the year.

However, the spokeswoman adds that Cuadrilla is unsure how long the process will take, since this is the first time horizontal wells have been drilled into the UK's shale rock. (The Preese Hall site only had a vertical well). It, therefore, cannot say exactly when the first fracking will take place, she said.

Cuadrilla had originally planned to begin fracking by the third quarter of this year. An ongoing protest at the site may be delaying development. Since January, anti-fracking protesters have maintained a continuous presence outside the site.

A drilling rig owned by the firm was vandalized last month at a facility near Chesterfield, where it was being stored, while Cuadrilla recently breached its planning permission by delivering a drilling rig overnight, apparently to evade the protestors.

If Cuadrilla does use fracking at the site, it would be the first time in the UK since the 2011 moratorium was put in place.

Cuadrilla also has an application for exploratory fracking at a second Lancashire site, Roseacre Wood. A public inquiry on the application is set to take place in April 2018, after a legal challenge by protesters failed to stop it going ahead.

It's worth emphasizing that Cuadrilla's projects are at the exploratory stage and are not yet producing shale gas. However, Cuadrilla's spokeswoman tells Carbon Brief that gas from its site will be "fueling Lancashire homes and businesses mid next year." This statement is based on Cuadrilla already having planning consent for an extended flow test, that would send small quantities of gas into the grid. Again, this would fall short of full-scale production.

Where Else Are Firms Planning to Use Fracking?

At least five other firms are planning to explore for shale gas in the UK. The map below shows where they hope to operate.

Note that fracking will not be used at all the sites shown on the map. Cuadrilla has said it will not need to carry out fracking at its oil exploration well at Balcombe, for example, since the rock is already naturally fractured. (Note that it has no plans to continue exploration at this site, having decided to focus on shale gas extraction in Lancashire).

The map includes Cuadrilla's Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood sites in Lancashire, the only ones for which the firm is currently seeking permission to carry out fracking.

Also of note are three sites near Sheffield, licenced to Ineos Shale, a UK-based subsidiary of Anglo-Swiss chemical giant Ineos, which aims to drill test wells to assess the suitability of the sites for extracting shale gas. In July , Ineos Shale won a broad pre-emptive injunction that will put protesters in contempt of court if they obstruct its shale operations.

Meanwhile, last month Third Energy submitted its final plans to start fracking for shale gas at its Kirby Misperton site in North Yorkshire. It was granted planning permission for the site in May 2016.

This plan still needs to undergo a technical assessment from the Environment Agency and requires approval from the government's Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) . A spokesman for Third Energy tells Carbon Brief it hopes to begin fracking this year.

How Much Shale Gas Does the UK Have?

The British Geological Survey (BGS) said the UK has large amounts of shale hydrocarbons below its surface. However, the precise distribution is not yet well known and there remains significant uncertainty over how much is extractable.

The BGS has examined how much shale resources there are in several areas of the UK (see video below). Its central estimates for these are:

  • More than 1,300 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of shale gas in the Bowland-Hodder shale in Lancashire;
  • Around 4.4 billion barrels (bbl) of shale oil in the Weald basin in Sussex, but no significant gas resource;
  • A further 1.1bbl of shale oil in part of the Wessex basin, near the Weald basin and;

Two things are worth emphasising here. First, these are central, fairly rough estimates. The BGS's range for the Bowland-Hodder shale, for example, is a lower limit of 822tcf and upper limit of 2281tcf.

Most importantly, though, these are calculations of the total resources of shale. Only a fraction of this will be commercially extractable reserves, depending on the cost of UK operations and the international market price of gas.

The BGS said it is too early to know what proportion of UK shale resources are recoverable, although it said U.S. recovery factors are typically around 10 percent. Note that shale firms often argue they need to begin drilling before they can understand how much of the UK's shale gas is extractable.

The UK uses around 3tcf of gas each year. Assuming a 10 percent recovery rate and the BGS's central estimates, the UK has 138tcf or around 46 years worth of technically extractable shale gas.

It's worth noting a 2013 assessment by the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated a far lower technically recoverable resource in the UK of 26tcf, equivalent to nine years of current UK gas use.

A 2010 BGS estimate for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) put the "total recoverable reserve potential" in the UK even lower, at just 5.3tcf. This is less than two years of use.

Research by UK-based commercial oil and gas consultancy the Energy Contract Company (ECC) , published in 2012, put technically recoverable shale gas far higher than this, at 40tcf, around 13 years worth.

Meanwhile, in 2013 the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) estimated a potentially recoverable resource of 64-459tcf in the Bowland shale formation alone. This figure is based on a range of recovery rates of 8-20 percent.

There are currently no official reserve estimates . As POST observed, UK reserves could be anywhere from "zero" to "substantial." It said: "To determine reliable estimates of shale gas reserves, flow rates must be analyzed for a number of shale gas wells over a couple of years."

Where Have Oil and Gas Licenses Been Granted?

There are 137 ongoing oil and gas licenses granted in UK government licensing rounds. The most recent, the 14th onshore licensing round, was launched in 2014, the first since 2008. This resulted in another 93 licenses being given to 22 successful applicants in 2015.

It's worth noting that these licenses do not give permission for operations, but rather grant exclusivity to licensees for exploration and extraction of any hydrocarbon, including for shale gas and oil within the area.

A spokesperson for the government's Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), told Carbon Brief:

"Subject to planning permission, relevant scrutiny and other permits, a proposal for shale exploration could progress on any extant onshore license, not just ones issued in the 13th or 14th rounds when the potential was first identified."

However, 63 of the 93 licenses granted in 2015 are in areas of potential shale exploration, according to investigative website Drill or Drop .

The video below shows the areas of shale gas and oil potential in the UK, based on maps from the OGA.

Which parts of the UK are open to fracking? Animation by Rosamund Pearce for Carbon Brief . Maps from the Oil and Gas Authority. Music: ketsa (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0). Sound effect: dshogan (CC BY-NC 3.0).

The maps show, in turn:

  • Shale oil and gas study areas. Areas which have been surveyed by the British Geological Survey (BGS), a public sector research body, to see if they might contain extractable shale hydrocarbons. These are the main areas that could be used to produce shale oil or gas in the UK, according to the BGS. There are other minor areas that it has not yet studied.
  • Shale prospective areas. Areas of shale rock that the BGS has identified as containing potentially extractable shale gas or oil.
  • Current oil and gas licenses. All ongoing licenses in the UK for onshore oil and gas extraction, including conventional and non-conventional resources, such as shale. Licenses specifically related to shale resources were first awarded in 2008 and 2015, during the government's 13th and 14th licensing rounds.
  • Oil and gas licenses awarded in 2015. Blocks awarded in the government's 14th licensing round , which launched in 2014. This was the most recent offer of onshore oil and gas licenses and only the second to explicitly include shale resources.
  • Total area made available for license in 2014. All areas opened for bidding in the 14th licensing round. This covers approximately two fifths of the UK.

It's worth emphasizing that some of the licenses shown in the map above are for firms that intended to explore for conventional oil or gas, rather than shale gas. Edward Hough, a geologist from the BGS, told Carbon Brief:

"Operators may explore for shale gas and also a conventional source of hydrocarbon under the same license. In some parts of the country, shale targets may underlie conventional hydrocarbon reservoirs; as such, it's not possible to put a figure on how many licenses are for shale versus conventional oil and gas."

In addition, companies holding licenses still need to go through planning applications to gain consent for drilling, with only a couple of companies currently at this stage in just a few locations (see first map above).

Does the UK Need Shale Gas?

While it's important to consider how much of the UK's shale gas is recoverable, perhaps the more pertinent questions are how soon it could start to flow and if it is needed.

This is crucial to the question of whether shale gas production can be ready in time to replace the UK's rapidly falling coal use, the main way it could substantively cut UK greenhouse gas emissions (see below).

According to National Grid's most recent Future Energy Scenarios , UK gas production fell to 35 billion cubic metres (bcm; 1.2tcf) in 2016, a third of its level in 2000. This fall has been offset by a 20 percent fall in demand , with imports making up the difference. Similarly large falls in conventional UK gas production are expected over the next 30 years, National Grid said.

This fall in production could be offset by cutting demand further, by importing more gas, by producing domestic shale gas or a combination of all three.

To explore these options, National Grid lays out four scenarios, with shale gas included in the two with reduced climate ambition. It's worth highlighting that these scenarios are not forecasts of what is most likely to happen, but rather potential paths, which can also serve as warnings. Only one of the scenarios meets the UK's legally-binding carbon targets.

Its "consumer power" scenario has high gas demand and a focus on domestically produced supplies. Shale production begins around 2020, ramping up to 32bcm (1.1tcf) per year from 2031. Total annual gas use in 2050 sits at 70bcm (2.5 tcf), only 20 percent lower than in 2016.

Annual UK gas supply by source (billions of cubic meters, left axis) and the share of supplies that are imported (percent, right axis) in the Consumer Power scenario. UKCS is North Sea supplies from the UK continental shelf. Continent is mainly the Netherlands. LNG is liquefied natural gas delivered by ship. Green gas includes biogas derived from anaerobic digestion. Source: National Grid Future Energy Scenarios 2017.

In National Grid's legally compliant "two degrees" scenario, investment in renewable technologies, including "green gas," as well as efforts to cut demand, leave no incentive for shale gas development. Annual gas supply in 2050 falls to 40bcm (1.4tcf), some 50 percent below 2016 levels. This scenario leaves the UK more dependent on gas imports, however.

Annual UK gas supply by source (billions of cubic meters, left axis) and the share of supplies that are imported (percent, right axis) in the Consumer Power scenario. UKCS is North Sea supplies from the UK continental shelf. Continent is mainly the Netherlands. LNG is liquefied natural gas delivered by ship. Green gas includes biogas derived from anaerobic digestion. Source: National Grid Future Energy Scenarios 2017.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has also assessed the future for gas within UK carbon targets. As Carbon Brief reported at the time, it said that gas use should fall by around 50 percent in 2050, rising to a 80 percent fall if carbon capture and storage is not available.

It's worth noting that the CCC has also said UK heating must be virtually zero-carbon by 2050, with options to reach this goal including district heating schemes, low-carbon hydrogen in the gas grid (see below) and electric heat pumps.

What Does Shale Gas Mean for Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

A 2013 report co-authored by the late Prof David MacKay, then chief scientist to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), found UK shale gas would have much lower emissions than coal, slightly lower emissions than imported liquified natural gas (LNG) and higher emissions than conventional gas.

Like the CCC, this report emphasised the need to ensure UK shale gas production did not lead to an overall increase in international supply and demand for gas.

The authors warned that the "production of shale gas could increase global cumulative GHG emissions if the fossil fuels displaced by shale gas are used elsewhere."

They concluded: "The view of the authors is that without global climate policies (of the sort already advocated by the UK) new fossil fuel exploitation is likely to lead to an increase in cumulative carbon emissions and the risk of climate change."

Advocates have argued that shale gas could help to cut greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the use of coal. This might be possible as long as fugitive methane emissions remain below a certain level, often calculated at around 3 percent.

In practice, however, the UK is unlikely to be able to replace coal with domestic shale gas, given coal is being phased out of the power sector by 2025 and is expected to fall to very low levels well before then.

This leaves the small potential emissions advantage of domestic shale gas over imported LNG.

The CCC says that onshore oil and gas extraction, including fracking, is incompatible with the UK's climate targets unless it can meet tough standards on emissions. It laid out three key tests for a UK shale gas industry. These are:

  • Strict limits on emissions. This means limiting methane leakage during development, production and well decommissioning, as well as prohibiting production that would entail significant CO2 emissions from changes in land use. The CCC said current regulations fall short of these requirements.
  • Gas consumption in line with carbon budgets. This means cutting gas consumption at least in half by 2050 and using shale gas to replace, rather than add to, current gas imports. If carbon capture and storage (CCS) is not available, UK gas consumption needs to drop to around 80% below today's levels by 2050. A separate report, released last year by the industry-funded Task Force on Shale Gas , concluded that CCS will be "essential" if fracking develops at scale.
  • Shale industry emissions offset by more cuts elsewhere. This means the unavoidable emissions from a UK shale gas industry would have to be matched by cuts in other areas of the economy. Offsetting these emissions through other sectors would be possible, but potentially difficult, the CCC said.

The CCC reiterated this advice in its latest annual progress report , published in June. It also said the government should implement new policies to more tightly regulate and monitor shale gas wells, in order to ensure rapid action to address methane leaks .

Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency said in 2011 that the significant global development of shale gas could put the world on a trajectory towards a long-term temperature rise of over 3.5C, far above the Paris agreement limit of "well below 2C."

Could Shale Gas be Low Carbon?

Some shale gas proponents have argued it could be used to produce low-carbon hydrogen via a steam reformation process , combined with CCS. The hydrogen would replace methane in the gas grid and be used for heating or fuel cells.

Depending on how tightly emissions are controlled during shale gas production, however, this might only cut emissions by 59 percent compared to fossil gas. The figure also depends on what share of CO2 is captured, with 100 percent technically possible, but likely to be more costly.

The CCC said that CCS must be under active development in the UK before a decision to proceed with hydrogen is made. The House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee last year warned gas without CCS could put climate targets at risk.

In 2015, the government abruptly cancelled a £1bn competition to build plants demonstrating CCS at commercial scale. Last year, then-energy minister Andrea Leadsom called a CCS strategy " unnecessary ."

It remains to be seen whether a CCS strategy is laid out in the government's long-delayed clean growth plan , now expected in September. The Conservative party's 2017 manifesto made no mention of CCS.

What Does the Government Say on Shale?

The Conservative's 2017 election manifesto set out ambitious plans to develop the shale gas industry, in a lengthy section that spoke glowingly of its prospects.

This said that shale gas could help reduce carbon emissions "because [it] is cleaner than coal" (see above for more on UK shale gas and coal). The manifesto also said it "could play a crucial role in rebalancing our economy."

The weakened Conservative administration has abandoned a string of manifesto policies since losing its majority at the general election. Last month, energy minister Richard Harrington reiterated the government's stance on shale gas, but did not mention emissions, saying :

"Shale gas could have great potential to be a domestic energy resource that makes us less reliant on imports and opens up a wealth of job opportunities. The economic impact of shale, both locally and nationally, will depend on whether shale development is technically and commercially viable and on the level of production. To determine the potential of the industry and how development will proceed, we need exploration to go ahead."

The government says shale gas operations will only take place in a manner which is safe for the environment and local communities.

The government's continued support for fracking comes despite low and falling public support. The latest BEIS public attitude tracker , published last month, showed support for fracking falling to 16 percent, its lowest level since the surveys began five years ago.

Opposition now sits at 33 percent, with 48 percent of people saying they neither support nor oppose fracking.

It's worth adding that neither those for nor against fracking tend to cite carbon savings as a principle reason for their view.

The Labour Party has pledged to ban fracking if it wins power, arguing shale gas will "lock us into an energy infrastructure based on fossil fuels." The Liberal Democrats and Greens also oppose fracking.

What About the Devolved Governments?

While successive UK governments have been decidedly pro-shale for a number of years, the devolved administrations are taking a more cautious approach.

In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon's government imposed a moratorium on fracking in January 2015 and commissioned a series of independent studies into the pros and cons of shale gas.

The Scottish government launched a public consultation in January 2017, which had attracted 60,000 responses by the time it closed in May. The government response, including a decision on whether to allow fracking, is due later this year.

In June, Scottish Labour's environment spokeswoman Claudia Beamish announced plans for a member's bill that would outlaw fracking, confirming the party's continued opposition.

Wales has also put a fracking ban in place, while Northern Ireland adopted a "no fracking" policy in 2015. Meanwhile, the Republic of Ireland finalised its permanent ban on onshore fracking in June of this year.

Meanwhile, across the channel, France and Germany have effective bans on fracking.

Will Fracking Be Economically Viable?

One major and often overlooked question for shale gas is whether it will be commercially viable in the UK.

Domestically produced shale gas will have to compete with other sources, including imports from Russia and Qatar, as well as potentially cheaper shale gas from the U.S.

In addition, multiple commentators and reports have noted the differences between the UK and U.S. that could prevent Britain from emulating the U.S. shale boom .

The UK has a far denser population, meaning fracking will take place closer to communities, for instance, alongside already strong public opposition. It also has potentially less suitable geology and stronger environmental legislation.

In an article for the Conversation , Prof. John Underhill , chair of exploration geoscience and chief scientist at Heriot-Watt University's Shell Centre for Exploration Geoscience, wrote:

"[People] pay little attention to whether the country's geology is suitable for shale oil and gas production. The implication is that because fracking works in the US, it must also work here. In fact, the UK's geological history suggests this is probably wrong…

"The inherent geological complexity of the [UK's] sedimentary basins has not been fully appreciated or articulated. As a result, the opportunity has been overhyped and reserve estimates remain unknown."

Even while pushing for shale development, government ministers have cautioned that its economic impact will depend on whether it is technically and commercially viable.

Fracking firms themselves are also cautious about promising too much. Cuadrilla's chief executive Francis Egan said in January he hoped it would become clear within a year whether it was economically viable to extract shale gas from the Preston New Road site.

Jocelyn Timperley holds an undergraduate masters in environmental chemistry from the University of Edinburgh and a science journalism MA from City University London. She previously worked at BusinessGreen covering low carbon policy and the green economy. Reposted with permission from our media associate Carbon Brief .

16 August 2017. New Report Finds 'Erin Brockovich' Carcinogen in Water Supply for 250 Million Americans

By Robert Coleman

In 2016, an EWG report found that chromium-6—a cancer -causing compound made notorious by the film "Erin Brockovich"—contaminated the tap water supplies of 218 million Americans in all 50 states. But our just-released Tap Water Database shows the problem is even worse than that.

Based on test results obtained directly from almost 50,000 local water utilities, drinking water supplies for about 250 million Americans are contaminated with chromium-6. For about 231 million people, drinking water supplies have average levels of chromium-6 exceeding the one-in-a-million cancer risk level determined by California state scientists.


That may still underestimate the number of people exposed because water from most smaller utilities and private wells usually is not tested for chromium-6. Although it's been almost a decade since the National Toxicology Program found the compound caused cancer in rodents when ingested, there are no federal regulations on chromium-6 in drinking water and no federal requirements for regular monitoring of chromium-6 in tap water.

There are a couple of possible reasons for the new, higher numbers in the Tap Water Database.

  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ) classifies utilities that purchase finished water from other public utilities as consecutive systems, which are only required to test for disinfectant byproducts, lead and copper. The database suggests that many consecutive systems are buying finished water tainted with chromium-6 from other utilities. To see if your water supplier is a consecutive system and may be purchasing contaminated finished water, look up your supplier in the Tap Water Database.
  • California is the only state that set a public health goal and legal limit for chromium-6, and requires water utilities to test for the chemical. EWG's 2016 report was based on data from the EPA's Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring program . The EPA-mandated testing involves only a small number of water utilities that serve fewer than 10,000 people.

We urge the federal government to follow California's lead and set a nationwide legal limit on chromium-6 in drinking water, and require both large and small utilities to test for it. While the legal limit set by California in 2014 was too high to fully protect human health, it represented a step in the right direction. And until regular nationwide testing is required, we can't know the true extent of contamination in public water utilities.

For now, we invite everyone to use our database to find out if there is chromium-6 in your water. If so, contact your local elected officials to express your outrage and use EWG's Water Filter Guide to find a water filter that is certified to remove the contaminant .

16 August 2017. World's Largest Solar Thermal Power Plant Approved for Australia

The South Australian state government has approved the construction of a 150-megawatt solar thermal power plant.

The AU $650 million (US $510 million) structure will be built in Port Augusta and is slated for completion by 2020. It will be the largest such facility in the world once built.


California-based SolarReserve was awarded with the contract. The company is also behind the 110-megawatt Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant in Nevada, the world's first utility-scale solar thermal power plant.

Solar thermal plants are different from traditional photovoltaic panels on rooftops and solar farms around the world. These plants, also known as concentrated solar plants (CSP), consists of a large field of mirrors to concentrate the sun's rays to heat molten salt, which then produces superheated steam to drive a generator's turbines.

A major advantage to this type of power plant is how it can store up to eight hours of molten salt thermal energy storage, allowing for power usage when needed.

"The significance of solar thermal generation lies in its ability to provide energy virtually on demand through the use of thermal energy storage to store heat for running the power turbines," said sustainable energy engineering professor Wasim Saman, from the University of South Australia. "This is a substantially more economical way of storing energy than using batteries."

This technology is critical for South Australia, which has been plagued by blackouts. Australia itself also has a major gas shortage is looming and its decades-old coal plants are shutting down , sparking potential price hikes and putting energy security at risk.

Looks like the state is firmly placing its bet on renewables. The state government also recently approved the construction of the world's largest battery farm in the Riverland region with help from Tesla .

16 August 2017. New Drone Footage Exposes the Horrors of Factory Farming

By Mark Devries

The animal agriculture industry spends millions on deceptive advertising to persuade consumers that farmed animals roam freely on bucolic pastures. But I've been piloting drones over animal agriculture facilities for several years, and the video I've captured tells a far different story. Nearly all animals raised and slaughtered for food in the U.S. live in factory farms —facilities that treat animals as mere production units and show little regard for the natural environment or public health. Instead of creating widgets, these factories confine, mutilate and disassemble animals who feel pain and pleasure just like our dogs and cats.


Aerial views of the first factory farms I visited— pig facilities —didn't capture grass and rolling hills, but instead exposed rows of windowless metal buildings. Each confined thousands of intelligent, sensitive pigs who spent their lives on concrete floors in crowded pens. The footage also reveals what appear to be red lakes but are in fact giant, open-air cesspools. Waste falls through slats in the pigs' concrete flooring and is flushed into these massive pits, which sometimes have the surface area of multiple football fields. To lower the levels of these cesspools, many facilities spray their contents into the air where they turn into mist and drift into neighboring communities.

In North Carolina, this practice has been associated with spikes in blood pressure among community members and increased asthma symptoms among nearby schoolchildren. I spoke with neighbors who described walking outside and falling down in their own front yards because the stench of these factory farms made it so difficult to breathe.

I recently piloted drones over factory egg farms, perhaps the most industrialized sector of animal agriculture, with each shed confining thousands of hens and some facilities holding over a million. If I hadn't known better, I would have thought the 24 sheet-metal buildings were airplane hangars or industrial storage facilities. Mercy For Animals undercover investigations have revealed that hens inside such facilities spend their lives trapped in cages so small the birds can't even fully spread their wings. Such confinement is so intensive that many hens die and decompose among cagemates still producing eggs to be sold as food.

Indeed, drones have put to bed the myth of Old MacDonald's farm. Armed with the truth, we must take responsibility. The practices exposed only exist because people purchase products of factory farms. Each of us has the power to stand up and vote against this industry by simply leaving animals off our plates .

Mark Devries serves as special projects coordinator for investigations, with a focus on directing short-form documentaries about factory farming and animal rights. Before joining Mercy For Animals, he directed Speciesism: The Movie and conducted the world's first drone-based investigation of factory farming. The movie is widely used as an introduction to animal rights, and the drone footage has amassed tens of millions of views globally. Mark is also an attorney licensed to practice in Washington, DC.

16 August 2017. SeaWorld Euthanizes Orca Matriarch Kasatka Following Long Bout With Lung Disease

Kasatka , a female orca who lived in captivity for nearly four decades, was humanely euthanized Tuesday night at SeaWorld San Diego. She was approximately 41 years old.

The ocean park announced that the mother of four, grandmother of six and great grandmother of two died at approximately 8:15 p.m. "surrounded by members of her pod, as well as the veterinarians and caretakers who loved her."


"All of us at SeaWorld are deeply saddened by this loss, but thankful for the joy she has brought us and more than 125 million park guests," the statement continued.

The 10 remaining killer whales currently living in the San Diego facility "appear to be doing well, but we're monitoring and watching for any changes in their behavior," SeaWorld said.

Kasatka's was captured off the coast of Iceland on October 26, 1978 when she was less than two years old. Conservation organization Dolphin Project notes that with her death, only three wild-caught orcas remain at SeaWorld parks in the United States—Ulysses and Corky in San Diego, and Katina in Orlando.

Kasatka had been undergoing treatment for lung disease after being diagnosed with a bacterial respiratory infection in 2008.

"Despite their best efforts, her health and appetite significantly declined over the past several days despite continually tailored treatments," SeaWorld said. "Kasatka's veterinarians and caretakers made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize her to prevent compromising her quality of life."

However, questions remain about her passing. An article and photos posted by Dolphin Project in June showed Kasatka appearing lethargic and perhaps struggling with an infection from open lesions. Former SeaWorld trainer John Hargrove , a SeaWorld whistleblower who appeared in the 2013 documentary Blackfish , posted photos of the apparent injuries on social media.

He also tweeted last night, "I screamed for the media to demand an independent lab do the tests because they can't be trusted.They will never release her necropsy report"

Hargrove told Times of San Diego in June that SeaWorld was "doing everything known to science to keep her alive" to avoid another orca death in quick succession, including Kyara, who died in July at just 3 months old and was the last orca born in captivity at SeaWorld, and Tilikum, who died in January .

Tilikum was made famous in Blackfish for killing a SeaWorld trainer in Orlando. His story brought the issues surrounding captivity and the animal amusement industry into the national conversation.

Kasatka, who gave birth to Tilikum's son Nakai in 2001 through artificial insemination, has also shown aggression to humans. In 2006, she grabbed trainer Ken Peters underwater during a performance in California. Peters survived the incident and later said that the risks with working with the whales are " acceptable ."

Following years of criticism, SeaWorld announced in May 2016 that it would cease all of its orca breeding programs. The company now cares for a total of 21 orcas at its three facilities in San Diego (10), Orlando (6) and San Antonio (5).

SeaWorld has posted a tribute video of Kasatka following her death. Watch here:

16 August 2017. Another Reason to Ditch Plastic—It Smells Like Food to Fish

We know that the massive amount of plastic that's continually dumped into our oceans can end up in the stomachs of marine species (and ultimately on our plates ), but why would they want to eat it?

Well, new research suggests that fish are not just accidentally gobbling up our plastic trash—they could be actively seeking it out because they like how the debris smells and are confusing it for their natural prey.


The study, published Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B , presents "the first behavioral evidence that plastic debris may be chemically attractive to marine consumers."

"These chemical cues may lure consumers, such as anchovy, into regions of high plastic density and activate foraging behaviors, thus making it difficult to ignore or reject plastic items as potential prey," the paper states.

As New Scientist explains from the study, when plastic enters the ocean, the debris gets quickly covered by algae and releases an odor similar to krill, the natural prey for certain fish such as anchovies. The smell of the plastics then sets off the anchovies' foraging and feeding behavior.

Matthew Savoca , from the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center in Monterey, California and the lead author of the study, told to the Guardian , "When plastic floats at sea its surface gets colonized by algae within days or weeks, a process known as biofouling. Previous research has shown that this algae produces and emits DMS, an algal based compound that certain marine animals use to find food. [The research shows] plastic may be more deceptive to fish than previously thought. If plastic both looks and smells like food, it is more difficult for animals like fish to distinguish it as not food."

And yes, the study also suggests that since these fish are confusing plastics for food, it could impact species that are higher up on the food chain, including humans.

"Given the trophic position of forage fish, these findings have considerable implications for aquatic food webs and possibly human health," the authors conclude.

16 August 2017. Meet the Brothers Kayaking Down the World's Most Polluted River

By Gary Bencheghib and Sam Bencheghib

We have all heard about the accumulation of plastic pollution in our ocean and the devastating effects it is having on marine life , but very little has been done to stop the plastic from its source.

With more than 80 percent of plastic pollution in the ocean originating from rivers and streams, we have decided to create a shocking visual of the world's most polluted river, the Citarum in Indonesia, by kayaking down it on two plastic bottle kayaks made from repurposed trash.


We launched Plastic Bottle Citarum to help make people think about the dangers that pollution has on human health. Located in West Java, the Citarum river is the water source for 15 million people for drinking, cooking and bathing.

The two kayaks we are paddling were built by the bamboo experts, EWABI. Each kayak has a bamboo frame and is filled with 300 plastic bottles to keep us afloat, which were collected by our partner, EcoBali, from school groups and waste facilities.

The goal of the expedition is to raise awareness of the dangers of plastic pollution and to inspire positive change by documenting some of the incredible and innovative efforts that are fighting the plastic epidemic in Indonesia.

During our expedition, we will be producing a series of five short videos documenting our descent down the river and highlighting the change-makers living on the river who dedicate their lives to cleaning up the Citarum and educating the local community on the impacts of pollution.

Follow our journey on Facebook and Instagram .

16 August 2017. Future of American Solar Industry Could Hinge on International Trade Commission Hearing

Two American solar manufacturers squared off with solar executives, state officials, foreign diplomats, conservative groups and ALEC in a hearing before the International Trade Commission Tuesday to halt possible imposing tariffs on the import of solar cells and modules.

Georgia-based Suniva and Oregon-based SolarWorld argued that competition from foreign manufacturers, particular Chinese manufacturers, poses an unlawful threat to domestic manufacturers and are calling for relief under an obscure U.S. trade law as their "last hope."


Solar Energy Industries Association, on the other hand, contended that imposing such tariffs could erase nearly a third of the industry's 250,000 jobs. This case could determine the future of the American solar industry and is one of the first major trade decisions of the Trump administration .

As reported by the New York Times :

"At issue is whether the financial woes of Suniva and its co-petitioner, SolarWorld Americas, are a result of unfair competition from Chinese companies benefiting from state subsidies, or of their own business practices. And though the sharp drops in the cost of panels have made it difficult for domestic manufacturers to compete, they have also fueled a boom in solar development throughout the country, providing a lift to an industry that says it now has more than 250,000 jobs."

For a deeper dive:

Washington Post , Houston Chronicle , ClimateWire , New York Times , Reuters , Greentech Media

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook , and sign up for daily Hot News .

16 August 2017. David Suzuki: Wildfires Are a Climate Change Wake-Up Call

Wildfires are sweeping BC . Close to 900 have burned through 600,000 hectares so far this year, blanketing western North America with smoke. Fighting them has cost more than $230 million—and the season is far from over.

It's not just BC. Thousands of people from BC to California have fled homes as fires rage. Greenland is experiencing the largest blaze ever recorded, one that Prof. Stef Lhermitte of Delft University in the Netherlands called "a rare and unusual event." Fires have spread throughout Europe, North America and elsewhere. In June, dozens of people died in what's being called Portugal's worst fire ever . Meanwhile, from Saskatchewan to Vietnam to New Zealand, floods have brought landslides, death and destruction.


What will it take to wake us up to the need to address climate change ? Fires and floods have always been here, and are often nature's way of renewing ecosystems—but as the world warms, they're increasing in frequency, size and severity. Experts warn wildfires could double in number in the near future, with the Pacific Northwest seeing five or six times as many.

In the western U.S., annual average temperatures have increased by 2 C and the fire season has grown by three months since the 1970s, leading to " new era of western wildfires ," according to a recent study led by University of Colorado Boulder wildfire experts, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Climate change doesn't necessarily start the fires—lightning, unattended campfires, carelessly tossed cigarette butts and sparks from machinery are major causes—but it creates conditions for more and larger fires . Lightning, which causes up to 35 percent of Canada's wildfires and is responsible for 85 percent of the area burned annually, increases as temperatures rise, with studies showing 12 percent more lightning strikes for each degree Celsius of warming.

Drier, shorter winters and earlier snowmelt extend fire seasons. As the atmosphere warms, it holds more moisture, some of which it draws from forests and wetlands, and increasing precipitation is not enough to offset the drying. This means fuel sources ignite more easily and fires spread faster over greater areas. Outbreaks of pests such as mountain pine beetles—previously kept in check by longer, colder winters—have also killed and dried forests, adding fuel to the fires. Because trees and soils hold moisture on slopes, fires can also increase the risk of flash floods when rains finally arrive.

The human and economic impacts are staggering—from property destruction to firefighting and prevention to loss of valuable resources and ecosystems. As human populations expand further into wild areas, damages and costs are increasing.

Health impacts from smoke put people—especially children and the elderly—at risk and drive health care costs up. Wildfires now kill more than 340,000 people a year, mainly from smoke inhalation.

Fires also emit CO2, creating feedback loops and exacerbating climate change. Boreal forests in Canada and Russia store large amounts of carbon and help regulate the climate, but they're especially vulnerable to wildfires.

Suggested solutions are wide-ranging. The authors of the PNAS study recommend letting some wildfires burn in areas uninhabited by people, setting more "controlled" fires to reduce undergrowth fuels and create barriers, thinning dense forests, discouraging development in fire-prone areas and strengthening building codes.

These adaptive measures are important, as are methods to prevent people from sparking fires, but our primary focus should be on doing all we can to slow global warming.

According to NASA , Earth's average surface temperature has risen by 1.1 C since the late 19th century, with most warming occurring over the past 35 years, and 16 of the 17 warmest years occurring since 2001. Eight months of 2016 were the warmest on record. Oceans have also been warming and acidifying quickly, Arctic ice has rapidly decreased in extent and thickness, glaciers are retreating worldwide, and sea levels have been rising at an accelerating pace. Record high temperature events have been increasing while low temperature events have decreased, and extreme weather events are becoming more common in many areas.

Today's wildfires are a wake-up call. If we are serious about our Paris agreement commitments, we can't build more pipelines , expand oil sands, continue fracking or exploit extreme Arctic and deep-sea oil.

16 August 2017. July Ties for Hottest Month on Record

Last month tied July 2016 as the hottest July in recorded history, according to a preliminary analysis by NASA.

And as a result, it also statistically tied with August 2016 and July 2016 as the hottest months ever recorded. Mashable's Andrew Freedman noted that this record is even more noteworthy because it occurred in the absence of an El Niño, which combined with long-term planetary warming makes 2016 the hottest year ever.


Last month was about 0.83°C, or 1.49°F warmer than the monthly 1951-1980 July average. Eyes now are on NOAA's monthly report expected in a few days to see if it corroborates the analysis.

According to the executive summary of a climate report drafted by 13 federal agencies:

"Thousands of studies conducted by tens of thousands of scientists around the world have documented changes in surface, atmospheric and oceanic temperatures; melting glaciers; disappearing snow cover; shrinking sea ice; rising sea level; and an increase in atmospheric water vapor ... The last few years have also seen record-breaking, climate-related weather extremes , as well as the warmest years on record for the globe."

As reported by Mashable, Earth has not had a cooler than average month since December 1984.

For a deeper dive:

Mashable , Gizmodo , Grist . Comment: ThinkProgress, Joe Romm column

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook , and sign up for daily Hot News .

16 August 2017. Groups Sue EPA for Weakening Toxic Chemical Rules

By Gail Koffman

"The fox guarding the hen house" aptly describes the inner workings of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ) under the Trump administration .

A major case in point: The EPA official tasked to head up the Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention office, Nancy Beck, came to the job after working as a former high-level official for a chemical industry association. She was charged with updating the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) , which addresses the production, use and disposal of such chemicals as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), asbestos, radon and lead -based paint.


Not surprisingly, Beck's updated TSCA regulations significantly weaken government regulations over these chemicals in consumer products and building materials by removing the provision for regulating all uses of chemicals.

In response, Earthjustice filed two lawsuits against the EPA late last week for weakening these regulations. The suits were filed on behalf of organizations representing populations that are most at risk from weakened chemical regulations—low-income communities, parents and teachers of children with learning disabilities, workers and indigenous populations.

The lawsuits challenge two EPA regulations that set ground rules for how the EPA will prioritize chemicals for safety review and then evaluate the risks of those chemicals under TSCA.

"The EPA's newly adopted rules will leave children, communities and workers vulnerable to dangerous chemicals," said Earthjustice attorney Eve Gartner. "This lawsuit is about one thing: holding the Trump EPA to the letter of the law and ensuring it fulfills its mandate to protect the public."

Under the Obama administration, Congress strengthened the TSCA , requiring the EPA to conduct comprehensive risk evaluations of chemicals. These evaluations devoted special attention to all of the risks posed to vulnerable populations and to consider all the ways a chemical may be used to account for all possible sources of exposure, otherwise known as the "conditions of use" provision.

The Trump administration's revision of TSCA is an entirely different matter. "The most significant change is whether the EPA must consider all 'conditions of use' as part of the risk evaluation process," explained attorney Eve Gartner. "If the EPA can pick and choose which uses of a chemical it will consider, it could ignore some sources of exposure. And that could lead the agency to underestimate the risk the chemical poses to public health."

For more than six years, Earthjustice has fought for TSCA reform to ensure the EPA adequately protects the public and environment from harmful chemicals.

Earthjustice filed Friday's complaints in federal court in San Francisco on behalf of WE ACT for Environmental Justice , Learning Disabilities Association of America , United Steelworkers , Alaska Community Action on Toxics , the Union of Concerned Scientists , Environmental Health Strategy Center , the Environmental Working Group and the Sierra Club .

"What Mr. Trump may not realize is that many residents, especially tenants living in poor or substandard housing, disproportionately suffer from respiratory problems such as asthma," said Dr. Adrienne Hollis, director of federal policy at WE ACT for Environmental Justice.

"We need to know the risks of chemicals used in our communities because exposure often exacerbates health disparities and outcomes. Enforcement of chemical laws to keep our communities healthy should be a top priority for the EPA."

Regarding the harm of toxic chemicals to children, Patricia Lillie, president of the Learning Disabilities Association of America, said, "These rules ... give the EPA authority to choose to ignore chemical uses that could result in prenatal and children's exposures to chemicals that are linked to learning and developmental disabilities."

Earthjustice also joined the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families in sending a strong letter to EPA director Scott Pruitt , expressing concern about Nancy Beck's conflict of interest in overseeing chemical regulations. Beck's weakening of TSCA is a toxic case in point.

16 August 2017. 63 Million Americans Were Exposed to Potentially Unsafe Water in the Past Decade

By Agnel Philip , Elizabeth Sims , Jordan Houston and Rachel Konieczny

As many as 63 million people—nearly a fifth of the country—from rural central California to the boroughs of New York City, were exposed to potentially unsafe water more than once during the past decade, according to a News21 investigation of 680,000 water quality and monitoring violations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The findings highlight how six decades of industrial dumping, farming pollution and water plant and distribution pipe deterioration have taken a toll on local water systems. Those found to have problems cleaning their water typically took more than two years to fix these issues, with some only recently resolving decades-old violations of EPA standards and others still delivering tainted water, according to data from the agency's Safe Drinking Water Information System .


Many local water treatment plants, especially those in small, poor and minority communities, can't afford the equipment necessary to filter out contaminants. Those can include arsenic found naturally in rock, chemicals from factories and nitrates and fecal matter from farming. In addition, much of the country's aging distribution pipes delivering the water to millions of people are susceptible to lead contamination, leaks, breaks and bacterial growth.

Experts warn contamination in water can lead to cancer, gastrointestinal diseases and developmental delays in children.

The EPA estimates local water systems will need to invest $384 billion in the coming decades to keep water clean. The cost per person is more than twice as high in small communities as it is in large towns and cities. The EPA and water treatment industry consider the coming years a crucial period for American drinking water safety as pipes and treatment plants built in the mid-20th century reach the end of their useful lives.

"We're in this really stupid situation where, because of neglect of the infrastructure, we're spending our scarce resources on putting our fingers in the dike, if you will, taking care of these emergencies, but we're not doing anything to think about the future in terms of what we should be doing," said Jeffrey Griffiths, a former member of the Drinking Water Committee at the EPA's Science Advisory Board.

As water systems age, 63 percent of Americans are now concerned a "great deal" about drinking water pollution, according to a Gallup poll released in March that showed such worries at their highest level since 2001. Drinking water pollution has long been a top environmental concern for Americans—above air pollution and climate change , according to the same poll.

Many of the nation's largest city systems violated EPA safety standards during the past decade, potentially exposing tens of millions of people to dangerous contaminants. New York City's system, which serves 8.3 million people, failed standards meant to protect its water from viruses and bacteria two times during that period. The system still hasn't addressed its most recent violation from February for not building a cover for one of its water reservoirs, according to EPA records.

The problems extend to the country's large suburbs. Tacoma, Washington's, system failed to meet a federally mandated timeline for installing a treatment plant meant to kill the parasite cryptosporidium. Chris McMeen, deputy superintendent for the Seattle suburb's system, which serves 317,600 people, said the pathogen has never been found in dangerous levels in the city's water. The system was also cited for failing to test for dozens of chemicals during the past decade.

In Waukesha, Wisconsin, 18 miles west of Milwaukee, decades of radium contamination from the city's underground aquifer prompted officials to draft a proposal to draw water from Lake Michigan for its 71,000 residents. The Great Water Alliance, a $200 million project , is expected to be completed by 2023.

Thousands of rural towns have the most problems because communities often lack the expertise and resources to provide safe drinking water.

In several Southwestern states, 2 million people received groundwater tainted with arsenic, radium or fluoride from their local water systems, with many exposed to these chemicals for years before hundreds of small, low-income communities could afford to filter them out. Some still haven't cleaned up their water.

Contamination in rural areas from these naturally occurring chemicals, found in the bedrock of aquifers, made Texas, Oklahoma and California the top states for EPA drinking water quality violations during the past decade.

"Sometimes it's orange, sometimes it's green, sometimes it's brown," said Melissa Regeon, a lifelong resident of Brady, Texas, which is trying to secure money for water system upgrades to filter out the radium in its water. "You just never know. It looks horrible."

Small water systems in California's San Joaquin Valley have battled both farming pollution and natural contamination from arsenic for years. High levels of nitrate from farm runoff and groundwater rock are linked to low oxygen levels in babies and cancer. Those levels have been found in systems serving 317,000 people during the past decade in the valley, 10,000 square miles of concentrated farming in the state's center.

The crash of the coal mining industry in southern West Virginia has left hundreds of residents in charge of their own small water systems—some of which date to the Civil War . Residents in the mountains of Wyoming and Fayette counties say they are getting too old to maintain water treatment plants and pipes, and they lack funding to carry out proper treatment on the water, which comes from springs in old coal mines.

"What is pretty clear is that a lot of these small communities, especially in lower-income areas, have a real problem ensuring compliance or even treating the water," said Erik Olson, director of the health program at the National Resources Defense Council . "A lot of these smaller communities, they don't even have the wherewithal to apply for available funding."

Drinking water quality is often dependent on the wealth and racial makeup of communities, according to News21's analysis. Small, poor communities and neglected urban areas are sometimes left to fend for themselves with little help from state and federal governments.

Contaminated water runs toward the Grand Calumet River and Lake Michigan, the source of drinking water for East Chicago, Ind. Michael M. Santiago / News21

In recent years, drinking water crises in minority communities, like Flint, Michigan , and East Chicago, Indiana, made national news when old pipes leached lead into the water of thousands for months before state and federal officials responded. In Texas, Corpus Christi's water system shut down for nearly four days in December because of a chemical spill at an asphalt plant, closing schools and businesses throughout the predominantly Hispanic city.

"These are not isolated incidences, the Flints of the world or the Corpus Christis or the East Chicagos," said Manuel Teodoro, a researcher at Texas A&M University who co-authored a report on the disproportionate effect of drinking water quality problems on poor minority communities.

"These incidents are getting media attention in a way that they didn't a few years ago, but the patterns that we see in the data suggest that problems with drinking water quality are not just randomly distributed in the population—that there is a systemic bias out there."

Many residents of Tallulah, Louisiana, where 77 percent of the population is black and 40 percent lives in poverty , have turned to bottled water as their crumbling utility failed to keep water free of toxic disinfectant byproducts. Systems serving thousands of others in predominantly black communities around the state have struggled to keep these carcinogens out of their taps.

Many Latinos along the U.S.-Mexico border who live in unincorporated low-income rural areas lack the resources to maintain their systems or don't have access to treated water.

Although the EPA sets minimum drinking water standards, almost all state governments are in charge of testing requirements and operator licensing, creating a maze of regulations and protections that differ from state to state.

A 2011 Government Accountability Office report found the EPA's database isn't complete , with some states incorrectly reporting or failing to report many violations. The EPA also hasn't created a rule for a new contaminant since 2000 .

Millions of Americans are also exposed to suspect chemicals the EPA and state agencies don't regulate. Two of these chemicals, perfluorinated compounds PFOA and PFOS, remain unregulated after decades of use as an ingredient in firefighting foam, Teflon and other consumer products. These perfluorinated compounds have been linked to low birth weights in children, cancer and liver tissue damage , according to the EPA.

"America's drinking water remains among the safest in the world and protecting drinking water is EPA's top priority," an agency spokesperson said in a statement to News21. "More than 90 percent of the country's drinking water systems meet all of EPA's health-based drinking water standards every day throughout the year."

The EPA did not make any officials available for an interview.

While most Americans get their water from local utilities, the 15 million homes with private wells , especially in rural areas, are vulnerable to the same contamination issues but are not required to install treatment systems. The limited data available shows wells in many parts of the country draw groundwater containing dangerous levels of toxins from naturally occurring elements and man-made sources.

Small Systems, Big Problems

The majority of local water systems serve fewer than 5,000 people, accounting for a majority of the 97,800 instances when regulators cited water systems for having too many contaminants during the past decade.

For example, Wolfforth and Brady, two small communities in western and central Texas, received the most citations for water quality in the U.S.

Wolfforth , where the tallest structure is a blue and white water tower, racked up 362 violations in 10 years for arsenic and fluoride in its groundwater source. Since arsenic can cause cancer and fluoride can weaken bones, the contaminants required a rapid solution.

The city of 4,400 is rapidly growing like much of suburban Texas, but City Manager Darrell Newsom said it still took time to find funding for the $8.5 million water treatment project .

"There's a lot of angst about how much money we spent, and there was a tremendous amount of angst about how long it took," Newsom said. "It was just so long and so much money that we had tied up for so long."

Even though the system is running, the city will send water notices to residents until the system doesn't violate the arsenic standard for a full year. Many continue to buy bottled water instead of drinking from the tap.

"We need some more clean water," said Shreejana Malla, who co-owns a convenience store in Wolfforth with her husband. "So I would want them to, as soon as possible, to get the clean water. I don't feel comfortable taking a shower, but we've got to take a shower."

The city got a loan and raised water rates about 30 percent to pay for the upgrades, Newsom said.

Generally, systems rely on customers to pay for upgrades, presenting a challenge for small communities who have fewer people to charge for water. Areas without growth are often forced to choose between keeping up with maintenance costs or keeping water payments low. The EPA and state governments provide some grants and low-interest loans , but there isn't enough money available to meet most needs, and they often require complicated applications.

"The average person looks at (water) like electricity," said Alan Roberson, executive director of the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators . "They just want it to be there, and they want it to be at a fair price."

For instance, 260 miles southeast of Wolfforth is Brady, a city proudly known as the " H eart of Texas ." The community is trying to secure funding from the state's Economically Distressed Areas Program for a $22 million water system project to get rid of the underground radium contaminating its drinking water. This fund only has $50 million left , and Brady is not the only city in contention for the money, leaving some concerned about the future of Brady's water if it doesn't receive part of the last allocation.

"If we don't get it this time and the state doesn't reauthorize that program, I don't know what we'll do," said Amy Greer, a sixth-generation farmer at the locally operated Winters Family Beef . "I really want our state legislators to know how terrible it is that they are not renewing a program that will help small rural communities face and tackle these kind of massive health and safety problems, and I'm just ashamed of them."

Despite funding uncertainty and mounting pressure from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality , the state's drinking water authority, the city is determined to get clean water for its 5,400 residents.

"The answer is solving the water problem because EPA and TCEQ has placed a timeline on us," Mayor Tony Groves said. "If we don't do that, there's always the risk that they could come in and say, 'OK, you lose your water system, and we're gonna pay somebody to operate your water system better than you're operating it and you're gonna pay for it.'"

What's in the Water?

Bobby Kirby was nominated by his neighbors in Kanawha Falls, West Va. to be their water system treasurer. The job sometimes entails performing maintenance on the Civil War-era system, which sits in a wooded area on a mountain, about a half mile above the town and only accessible by a footpath. Rachael Konieczny / News21

While many communities with small systems, like Wolfforth and Brady, struggle to address contamination issues, thousands more of these communities aren't sure if their water is safe because their systems don't test properly or report the results.

In southern West Virginia coal country , a number of communities failed to test their water hundreds of times after the miners that operated them left when their camps shut down. Many of these systems are now run by the residents.

In Garwood, a 55-person Wyoming County town surrounded by coal mines, the community water system stopped testing in 2014.

"Everybody just up and quit," said lifelong resident Jessica Griffith, who drank untreated water from an old coal mine for nine months before learning it wasn't being tested. "There was no warning, no nothing. Nobody handed it over to anybody else."

The stay-at-home mom and her neighbors say maintenance seems like a full-time job, and they can only afford to patch up leaks and fix busted pipes.

"We've just been trying to keep the water flowing because we don't have the money to treat it," Griffith said. "We don't know how to treat it."

Two hours north, Kanawha Falls Community Water in Fayette County was cited for not testing or reporting more than 2,000 times in 10 years, the most in the country. No one is sure when the system stopped being maintained, but residents say they experience the consequences daily. Joe Underwood, who had skull surgery after a four-wheeler accident, said he showers with a cap after doctors told him the town's water gave him two infections near his brain.

"The old-style ways of getting water is not healthy," Underwood said. "And I'm meaning that for people that have serious injuries. I'm meaning that for little babies. I'm meaning that for anybody that has any kind of health problems."

The unincorporated community relies on volunteers like Bobby Kirby, nominated by his neighbors to be water system treasurer, to pour chlorine into the storage tanks to disinfect the water. After years of not testing and reporting, Kirby said the state threatened to arrest him for failing to turn in paperwork.

"They came here and said they was going to lock me up," he said. "Well, I told them, 'You can lock me up if you want to, but I don't own it. I'm just a property owner that wants water.'"

The West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council , the agency responsible for improving infrastructure in the state, announced several projects to link communities like Kanawha Falls and Garwood to surrounding city water systems. Kanawha Falls' $1.8 million extension is scheduled to be completed by the end of the summer.

While some systems in West Virginia have no operators, other small systems throughout the country don't have the money to ensure full-time maintenance.

Scotts Mills , a city of 370 tucked away in the tree-lined foothills of northwest Oregon, cannot afford to hire a full-time staff for its water system and relies on local volunteers to step up.

"We rely on a neighbor complaining about an odor or something like that. We really don't have any staff to drive around and look," said Dick Bielenberg, the city councilman in charge of water. "If there's a water leak or something like that we'll take care of that, sometimes with volunteer labor, sometimes we'll hire an outside contractor, depends upon how big the project is."

Resident Jake Ehredt volunteered to be the water commissioner when he moved into community three years ago. However, Ehredt is also a full-time water system operator for the neighboring city of Molalla and said he can only spend an hour or two a day in Scotts Mills for routine checks. While he is away, residents with water problems are directed to call Bielenberg by a sticky note on the city hall door.

"One thing we have out here is contact with our elected officials. We know them," said Ron Hays, whose family has lived in and around Scotts Mills since 1899. "If the water main breaks, you know who to call."

Though surveys from the Oregon Health Authority showed the city's water system hasn't violated any safety standards , Bielenberg says the city needs a plan for at least the next 20 years should any problems arise.

"There's not a lot of money so you learn to get by and improvise," Ehredt said. "We are going to work on updating little small things."

Replacement Era

According to the EPA, most of the $384 billion needed to keep the country's water systems safe should go toward upgrading pipes buried underground that distribute the water —out of sight and mind to most Americans until one of them bursts.

"The plants are visible. If EPA makes a regulation, and you have to comply with it, then the utility manager can go to the board and say, 'Hey, I have to do this, EPA is making me do it,' and then get the money to build the treatment improvements," said Roberson, of the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators. "It's a little harder, then, when you're talking about the pipes that are buried in the ground because you don't see the pipes. You don't know if you have a problem until you get a big leak or a big geyser comes out in the street."

Even if water service is not disrupted by a pipe break, millions of miles of lead pipes in the U.S. are at risk of leaching the toxic metal into drinking water without proper oversight from system operators. In Milwaukee, about 70,000 homes are connected to the city's water system with aging lead pipes, many of which run under low-income and African-American communities in the city's northside neighborhoods. Many residents fear this has contributed to the city's high rate of lead poisoning among children.

Pipes that leak or break can also introduce bacteria and chemicals from the surrounding soil after the water has already been treated.

Government officials acknowledge the daunting challenges ahead for water utilities. In the final months of the Obama administration, the EPA's Office of Water published a report highlighting aging infrastructure, unregulated contaminants and financial support for small and poor communities as top concerns for drinking water quality going forward.

"The actions proposed here go far beyond what EPA alone can do; all levels of government, utilities, the private sector and the public each have critical roles to play," the report said. "Utilities ultimately must take many of the critical actions needed to strengthen drinking water safety, and communities must be actively engaged in supporting these actions."

Industry groups are sounding the alarm about the bill coming due for water infrastructure as it enters a "replacement era."

The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the U.S. a "D" grade for the quality of its drinking water systems based on an evaluation of their safety, condition, capacity and other criteria. Of the 25 states with individual grades, none scored higher than a "C+." Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Arkansas and Alaska all received "D" level grades.

The American Water Works Association estimated water systems will need about $1 trillion in investment during the next 25 years just to maintain and expand water service. This price tag doesn't include the costs associated with getting rid of lead service lines or upgrading water treatment plants.

"A part of that, not all of it, but a part of it, is a lack of investment when it should have started earlier," Steve Via, American Water Works Association director of federal relations, said about the upgrades necessary in coming years.

Methodology

News21 analyzed 680,000 violations from a 10-year period starting Jan. 1, 2007, in the EPA's Safe Drinking Water Information System . The database only contains active community water systems in U.S. states and tribal lands because they are the most likely to serve homes. The EPA data also shows how many people were affected by violations. The EPA has acknowledged this database might not reflect all violations that have occurred and some information may be incorrect.

The violations included two types: health-based violations and monitoring/reporting violations. Health-based violations are instances when water was found to be contaminated or not properly treated for contaminants. The story refers to these violations as water quality violations. Monitoring/reporting violations occur when a water system either fails to test for a contaminant or report its test result to the state and customers.

16 August 2017. EPA Chief Has Given More Interviews to Fox Than to All Other Major TV Networks Combined

By Kevin Kalhoefer

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt has appeared on Fox News twice as often as on other cable and broadcast networks combined, and he has frequently granted interviews to right-wing talk radio shows and other climate-denying outlets, Media Matters has found.


Pruitt's media strategy is right in line with that of his boss. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump eschewed mainstream media outlets ; it's a pattern his administration has continued since the election, favoring conservative and right-wing media outlets that are friendly to President Trump's agenda. By following the same approach, Pruitt has been able to push misinformation, avoid tough questioning and appeal to the president's political base.

Pruitt Appeared on Fox News Twice as Often as He Did on CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS and NBC Combined

Sarah Wasko

Scott Pruitt has been a guest on Fox News a total of 12 times since his confirmation. From February 17, when he was sworn in , to August 14, Pruitt made twice as many appearances on Fox News (12) as he did on CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS and NBC combined (6).* With the exception of two appearances on Fox News Sunday , Pruitt rarely faced tough questions on Fox News and was able to use the network as a platform for pushing misleading talking points without rebuttal. Pruitt appeared most frequently on Fox & Friends , Trump's favorite show , which some journalists have criticized as " state TV " and " a daily infomercial for the Trump presidency " for its sycophantic coverage of the president and his administration. Pruitt made the following appearances on Fox News:

  • One appearance on The Story with Martha MacCallum on June 5 .
  • One appearance on America's Newsroom on June 30 .

Sarah Wasko

By comparison, Pruitt made only six appearances on the other major cable and broadcast television networks combined. From the time Pruitt took the helm at the EPA through August 14, he was a guest just six times total on CNN, MSNBC, ABC and NBC, and he made no appearances at all on CBS. On each of these non-Fox programs, Pruitt faced questions either about whether Trump still believes climate change is a hoax or about Pruitt's own views on climate change . In response, Pruitt either avoided answering the question or repeated his " lukewarmer " stance that climate change is happening but we don't know how much is human-caused. In all but one of these appearances, Pruitt repeated false or misleading talking points about the Paris climate agreement. Here are Pruitt's guest appearances on cable news and broadcast networks other than Fox:

  • One appearance on CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper on June 1 .
  • One appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe on June 6 .
  • One appearance on NBC's Meet the Press on June 4 .

*Pruitt's appearance on Meet the Press aired on both NBC and MSNBC, but for the purposes of this study, we only counted it as an NBC appearance.

Pruitt Has Been a Frequent Guest on National Right-Wing Talk Radio Shows

Sarah Wasko

Pruitt has also been a frequent guest on nationally broadcast right-wing talk radio shows since his confirmation, Media Matters found. We examined the top 10 shows listed on Talkers.com's Top Talk Audiences list , as well as numerous shows broadcast on the SiriusXM Patriot channel and found the following:

  • One appearance on SiriusXM Patriot's David Webb Show on April 26 .
  • One appearance on SiriusXM Patriot's Breitbart News Daily on June 5 .
  • One appearance on Westwood One's The Savage Nation on June 1 .

All of these hosts or outlets have denied climate change:

  • Hugh Hewitt has a years-long record of climate denial: He wrote in a 2011 blog post that "we don't know" how much humans contribute to global warming, adding "if it will be harmful or if there's anything we can do about it." Hewitt also downplayed the threat of climate change in a September 2016 episode of his show in which he said that warming might be "a real problem over 500 years."
  • Brian Kilmeade has denied climate change, both as a host on his radio show and as a co-host on Fox & Friends . On a 2013 episode of his radio show (then called Kilmeade & Friends ), Kilmeade suggested that only "corrupt" climatologists accept human-caused climate change. On the same day, Kilmeade disputed on Fox & Friends that it is "settled scientific collective thought" that human activity causes climate change.
  • On the January 12 episode of the David Webb Show , Webb cast doubt on the scientific consensus around climate change, arguing that it's not significant that the vast majority of climate scientists publishing peer-reviewed research agree on the human causes of warming: "You can have 99 percent of peer-reviewed, but it doesn't mean that the one percent like that guy named Copernicus won't be correct about the fact that the Earth was not flat and we were not the center of the universe."
  • Breitbart.com has a long track record of pushing blatant climate science misinformation and attacking climate scientists and climate science, calling researchers "talentless low-lives" and "abject liars" and climate change a "hoax." Breitbart is also a go-to outlet for fossil fuel industry-funded academics who want to get publicity for their work.

Michael Savage (Host ): Please explain to me how come ancient core samples from the Antarctic show that there was climate change going on hundreds of thousands of years before man industrialized. [Whitehouse] would not have an answer for us, Mr. Pruitt. The science is fake science that they've been foisting upon a gullible public.

Scott Pruitt: You know what's interesting, Michael? There was a great article in The Wall Street Journal to your point, by Steven Koonin, a scientist at NYU, called "red team/blue team." I don't know if you saw it or not. But he proposed that we should have a red team/blue team approach with respect to CO2. We should have red team scientists and blue team scientists, in an open setting, debate, discuss, and have an open discussion about what do we know, what don't we know, and the American people deserve truth.

Savage: Amen to that, because we've had no debate whatsoever. All Obama told us was 98 percent of scientists agree. So what? There was a time when 100 percent of scientists said the Earth is flat. Did that make them right?

Pruitt: No, look, I mean the reason there's not consensus, through policy in Washington, DC, is because, truly, the American people don't trust what has happened in the past several years with respect to regulatory policy and this issue.

Pruitt's right-wing radio appearances have extended beyond nationally broadcast shows. E&E News reported in May that Pruitt appeared on "the local morning talk radio show of a North Dakota blogger who described the Obama administration's EPA as an enemy to the well-being of his state." ThinkProgress noted that during a "state listening tour" in North Dakota earlier this month, "Pruitt stopped by the conservative talk radio show What's On Your Mind to share his thoughts on a number of EPA-related issues." During that conversation, Pruitt referred to the "so-called settled science" of climate change.

And on August 10, Pruitt appeared on a Texas radio show, Politico reported , where he said his staff will assess the "accuracy" of a major federal climate report that's been drafted by scientists from 13 agencies. "Frankly this report ought to be subjected to peer-reviewed, objective-reviewed methodology and evaluation," he said, ignoring the fact that the report has already undergone extensive peer review. Pruitt also used his appearance on the show to cast doubt on climate science in general.

Pruitt Has Given Interviews to Other Climate-Denying Outlets, Including Online Publications and Cable Business Shows

In addition to his June interview on Breitbart's radio show, Pruitt granted the Breitbart website an interview in March.

Pruitt also sat for a lengthy video interview in July with the fossil fuel-funded Daily Caller, another denialist online outlet. And he gave an interview in May to The Daily Signal , an online news outlet run by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that casts doubt on climate change .

Besides his appearances on cable news shows, Pruitt also went on cable business shows and networks that serve as platforms for climate denial —most notably CNBC's Squawk Box , where he told climate-denying host Joe Kernen that he did not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming. Pruitt has also frequently given interviews on Fox Business Network, which mirrors Fox News' denialist stance on global warming . Pruitt made the following appearances on the Fox Business Network:

  • One appearance on Cavuto: Coast to Coast on March 9 .
  • One appearance on The Intelligence Report with Trish Regan on April 12 .

Pruitt's Courting of Conservative Media is "On an Entirely Different Level" from Predecessors

Scott Waldman of E&E News reported that after "weeks of blowback" from Pruitt's appearance on Squawk Box , the EPA chief "shifted his media appearances to friendlier venues," a move that "allowed him to tee off on a favorite series of talking points: Obama's energy policy was 'America second,' energy industry innovations have reduced the U.S. carbon footprint, the so-called war on coal is now over, EPA's job is to encourage business growth in concert with the environment, and the era of punitive action against energy companies is over." Waldman also noted that Pruitt's "courting of conservative media is on an entirely different level" from previous EPA administrators. From Waldman's article:

To be sure, all administrations seek out friendly press. President Obama talked about health care on the "Between Two Ferns" comedy program with Zach Galifianakis, which Republicans criticized as undignified. And former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy granted exclusive interviews to left-leaning outlets like Mother Jones and Grist.
But critics say Pruitt's courting of conservative media is on an entirely different level.
[…]
Liz Purchia, a former EPA spokeswoman under the Obama administration, said it's extremely unusual to place an administrator only on partisan outlets. She noted that McCarthy regularly interacted with reporters from outlets that produced coverage EPA officials did not appreciate.
[…]
"Only talking to far right-wing media outlets, they are only talking to a small group of Americans that regularly follow them, and they are intentionally going to reporters who will only ask them questions they want to hear and aren't speaking to the broader American people about their actions," Purchia said.




In Mother Jones, Rebecca Leber also reported that "since taking office, Pruitt has almost exclusively relied on a small number of conservative media outlets to tell an upbeat version of his leadership at the EPA, with occasional detours into the Sunday news shows," creating "an echo chamber cheerleading the EPA's regulatory rollbacks, Trump's withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement , and its newfound anti-science denial."

Leber also quoted Purchia remarking on how Pruitt's approach to media interviews "isolates him from most Americans and instead plays to Trump's base":

Liz Purchia, an Obama-era EPA communications staffer, says the EPA's attention to right-wing audiences resembles Trump's tactics at the White House. "They're tightly controlling [Pruitt's] public events and interviews, which isolates him from most Americans and instead plays to Trump's base," Purchia said in an email. "They're not trying to use communications tactics to reach a broad audience."

Methodology

Media Matters searched the following terms in Nexis, iQ Media and TVEyes to find Scott Pruitt's on-air TV appearances from the date of his swearing in as EPA Administrator on February 17 to August 14: "Pruitt," "EPA administrator," "E.P.A. administrator," "EPA chief," "E.P.A. chief," "EPA head," "E.P.A. head," "head of the EPA," "head of the E.P.A.," "head of the Environmental Protection Agency," "Environmental Protection Agency Administrator," or "Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency." We did not count instances of networks airing Pruitt's appearance at the White House's June 2 press briefing .

For radio appearances, Matters Matters searched the same terms in Veritone for the top 10 programs in Talkers.com's Top Talk Audiences list and the following programs that air on SiriusXM Patriot: Breitbart News Daily , David Webb Show , Brian Kilmeade Show and The Wilkow Majority .

Reposted with permission from our media associate Media Matters for America .

15 August 2017. U.S. Wind and Solar Boom Helped Prevent Up to 12,700 Deaths Between 2007-2015

A new study from the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab gives us further reason to transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy .

According to the research, the U.S. wind and solar power boom helped prevent the premature deaths of thousands of people and saved the country billions of dollars in healthcare and climate -related costs in the years spanning 2007 through 2015.


"We find cumulative wind and solar air-quality benefits of 2015 US $29.7–112.8 billion mostly from 3,000 to 12,700 avoided premature mortalities," according to the paper authored by Dev Millstein of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California and his team. The research was sponsored by the Department of Energy and published in the journal Nature Energy.

Unregulated and poorly regulated energy production and use, as well as inefficient fuel combustion, are the "most important man-made sources of key air pollutant emissions," a 2016 International Energy Agency study found. Eighty-five percent of particulate matter—which can contain acids, metals, soil and dust particles, and almost all sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides can be linked back to those sources.

Unhealthful levels of air pollution can put people at risk for premature death and other serious health effects like lung cancer, asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm. But unlike fossil fuels, wind and solar power systems have no associated air pollution emissions.

As the Independent noted from the current study, major air pollutants have declined between 2007 and 2015. Carbon dioxide fell by 20 percent, sulphur dioxide by 72 percent, nitrogen oxide by 50 percent and tiny particles known as PM2.5 by 46 percent.

This decline is due to fossil fuels being replaced by renewable energy—solar and wind capacity increased from about 10 gigawatts in 2007 to roughly 100GW in 2015—as well as tougher emissions regulations.

The study also estimated that wind and solar contributed to the "cumulative climate benefits of 2015 US $5.3–106.8 billion," which includes "changes to agricultural productivity, energy use, losses from disasters such as floods, human health and general ecosystem services."

"The ranges span results across a suite of air-quality and health impact models and social cost of carbon estimates," the study added. "We find that binding cap-and-trade pollutant markets may reduce these cumulative benefits by up to 16 percent."

15 August 2017. Escalating Use of Pesticides Harms Already Imperiled Aquatic Invertebrates

A new analysis published this month by U.S. Geological Survey scientists found pesticides at high enough concentrations to harm already imperiled aquatic invertebrates in more than half of 100 streams studied in the Midwest and Great Plains. The pesticide levels threaten species like the Hine's emerald dragonfly and the sheepnose mussel.

The U.S. Geological Survey study, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, found an average of 54 pesticides in each stream in both agricultural and urban areas, spotlighting the ever-broadening contamination of waterways caused by the nation's escalating use of pesticides.


"This study exposes the hidden harm of our increasing addiction to pesticides," said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity . "When we see pesticides doing this kind of widespread harm to aquatic animals, we can be sure it has dangerous cascading effects on the entire web of life, including humans."

The analysis of 228 pesticide compounds in 100 streams over a 14-week period in 2013 documented the most complex pesticide mixtures yet reported in U.S. water samples. The waterways included in the study are in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota.

Surprising among the findings was that the concentrations and incidences of some pesticides, including glyphosate —the active ingredient in Roundup —imidacloprid and 2,4-D, were higher in urban waterways than in agricultural settings.

At least one pesticide in more than half of the 100 streams sampled in the Midwest exceeded a toxicity threshold predicted to cause harm to aquatic insects and other stream organisms, ranging from acute effects in 12 streams to chronic effects in 41 streams. USGS

"The finding that many of these pesticides are more prevalent in urban waterways than in rural streams shows the escalating risks of dumping millions of pounds of chemicals on the landscape every year," said Donley. "We simply can't keep pretending it's safe to spray more and more poisons on our fields, gardens and waterways."

The analysis comes as a federal court in California is considering a lawsuit filed by conservation groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, urging common-sense measures to prevent dangerous pesticides from harming endangered species like California condors, black-footed ferrets, arroyo toads, Indiana bats and Alabama sturgeon. Evaluations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency clearly show that imperiled wildlife continue to be threatened by pesticides.

The study is the first of five regional assessments by U.S. Geological Survey scientists of pesticide pollution of streams. The others regions are the Southeast, the Pacific Northwest, the Northeast and California.