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John Upton's Posts


Disney radio will stop shilling for frackers

Mickey Mouse playground equipment
chuck holton

A Radio Disney station in Ohio recently teamed up with the state's oil and gas industry on an "educational program" promoting resource extraction -- from Never Land to Gasland, you might say. The partnership made many parents and environmentalists unhappy.

From Al Jazeera:

The program, called Rocking in Ohio, went on a 26-stop tour of elementary schools and science centers across the state last month. It involves interactive demonstrations of how oil and gas pipelines work, and is led by three staffers from Radio Disney’s Cleveland branch. It is entirely funded by the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program (OOGEEP), which gets its money from oil and gas companies.

The Wooster Daily Record described the tour's stop at the Wayne County fairgrounds last year:

Radio Disney of Cleveland and its road crew promoted the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program, with games pitting all ages of children vs. their peers and even families vs. families and dads trying to beat other dads in a variety of challenges. All the challenges, except perhaps the dads' dance competition, related back to the science behind oil and gas production and their value as natural resources. ...

One of the challenges was "literally creating our own pipeline," [said Jag, the Radio Disney master of ceremonies], using balls and tubing to demonstrate "how we get oil and gas to your home."

Read more: Climate & Energy


Canada’s energy officials take over job of protecting fish from pipelines

A salmon in Canada
Arthur Chapman

Move aside, Canadian federal fisheries and oceans officials. Prime Minister Stephen Harper's administration has decided that the nation's fossil-fuel-friendly energy regulators would do a better job of protecting fish in streams and lakes that cross paths with gas and oil pipelines. Northwest Coast Energy News has the scoop:

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has handed responsibility for fish and fish habitat along pipeline routes over to the National Energy Board. ...

DFO and NEB quietly announced a memorandum of agreement on December 16, 2013, that went largely unnoticed with the release three days later of the Joint Review Panel decision on Northern Gateway and the slow down in news coverage over the Christmas holidays. ...


Tests show Texas well water polluted by fracking, despite EPA assurances

A well

Environmentalists and residents of Parker County, Texas, were dismayed last year when the EPA dropped an investigation into complaints that fracking by Range Resources was contaminating local water supplies with methane.

As part of a legal settlement that got the EPA off its back, the company agreed to test well water in the city of Weatherford, where the complaints were centered. Sure enough, Range's test results found minimal levels of methane in the water.

"According to the EPA, the sampling that Range Resources has completed indicates no widespread methane contamination of concern in the wells that were sampled in Parker County," the agency's inspector general wrote last month in a report requested by lawmakers.

But here comes the report's kicker: "However, the EPA lacks quality assurance information for the Range Resources’ sampling program, and questions remain about the contamination." In the report, the inspector general called on the EPA to evaluate the testing results being provided by Range Resources and to work with the state to "ensure appropriate action is taken" to address any methane and benzene pollution.

And now, less than a month after the inspector general's report was published, Bloomberg has a disturbing new update:

When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declared that a group of Texas homes near a gas-drilling operation didn’t have dangerous levels of methane in their water, it relied on tests conducted by the driller itself.

Now, independent tests from Duke University researchers have found combustible levels of methane in some of the wells, and homeowners want the EPA to re-open the case.

The previously undisclosed Duke testing illustrate the complaints of critics who say the agency is reluctant to sanction a booming industry that has pushed down energy prices for consumers, created thousands of jobs and buoyed the economy.


West Virginia caught unprepared for contamination of water supply, despite warnings

don't drink the water in West Virginia

West Virginia officials knew that a supplier to the coal industry was storing a toxic chemical near the Elk River that had the potential, if it leaked, to poison the water supplies of hundreds of thousands of people.

Last week, it did just that. The chemical leaked from one of Freedom Industries' tanks into the river, triggering an emergency and urgent warnings that residents and businesses should avoid using tap water.

So why are state officials now scratching their heads and sounding surprised about the disaster? Here's some excellent reporting from the Charleston Saturday Gazette-Mail, asking why there was no plan in place for dealing with such an emergency:

Last February, Freedom Industries sent state officials a form telling them the company stored thousands of pounds of a coal-cleaning chemical called 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol in the storage tanks at its Etowah River Terminal. ...

Freedom Industries filed its "Tier 2" form under the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act. State emergency response officials got a copy. So did emergency planners and responders from Kanawha County.

Under the law, government officials are supposed to use chemical inventory information on Tier 2 forms, like Freedom Industries', to prepare for potential accidents. ...


Enviros and climate scientists continue their fight over nuclear power

Dukovany Nuclear Power Station

More than 300 environmental, peace, and anti-nuclear groups and leaders published an open letter this week urging four prominent climate scientists to stop "embracing nuclear power" as a tool for curbing climate-changing pollution.

In response, one the four scientists reaffirmed his reluctant support for nuclear power, denying that he embraces the technology, but saying there's "no justification" for claims it could never become safe or affordable.

The debate among environmentalists over nuclear power flared up in November, when the four scientists published a letter calling for increased development and deployment of "safer nuclear energy systems." The letter was written by some of the climate community's best and brightest: NASA scientist-turned-activist James HansenKen Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science, Kerry Emanuel of MIT, and climatologist Tom Wigley.

That letter triggered a cavalcade of opinion articles, many of them arguing that nuclear power is too dangerous and much more expensive than wind and solar power. And now many critics of the scientists' arguments -- from tiny groups to big ones like Greenpeace USA and the Environmental Working Group -- have united to voice their opposition in this new letter. Here are some highlights:


Maine’s governor signs GMO-labeling law

Paul LePage

Maine on Thursday became the second state in the nation to require food manufacturers to put labels on products containing genetically modified ingredients -- sort of.

Gov. Paul LePage (R) signed "An Act To Protect Maine Food Consumers' Right To Know about Genetically Engineered Food," which mandates the following:

any food or seed stock offered for retail sale that is genetically engineered must be accompanied by a conspicuous disclosure that states "Produced with Genetic Engineering."

The law would also prevent any products containing GMOs from being labeled as "natural." That should seem obvious, but big food manufacturers are currently pressuring the federal government to allow them to use such labels on genetically modified foods.


EPA will let frackers keep on dumping chemicals into the sea

Santa Barbara Beach
Chuck Rogers
Fracking chemicals are out there.

Companies that frack the seafloor off the coast of Southern California have some new federal rules to worry about. Unfortunately, the new rules will still allow their fracking fluids to be unleashed into the sea -- including chemicals that are known to stunt human development and hurt wildlife. The companies will just have to tell the government what they're unleashing.

Under new rules that will take effect March 1, the companies must report the "chemical formulation, concentrations and discharge volumes" to the EPA of any "chemicals used to formulate well treatment, completion and workover fluids" that end up in the ocean.

So, hey, at least we'll know more about fracking pollution. (Assuming, that is, that the frackers are honest.)


Coal chemical spills in West Virginia, leaving 300,000 without tap water


What has Freedom Industries, a major supplier of chemicals to coal companies, done for the cause of freedom lately? It liberated thousands of gallons of a toxic chemical in Charleston, W.Va., poisoning drinking water for some 300,000 people and triggering state and federal emergencies. The Charleston Daily Mail has the appalling details:

Read more: Climate & Energy


At least EPA is doing a little something to help bees

a bee on a honeycomb

The U.S. EPA still won't follow Europe's lead and suspend or ban the use of neonicotinoid pesticides believed to be killing honeybees and other pollinators -- to the horror of beekeepers and environmentalists, who are suing the federal government over its inaction.

But at least the agency is doing something. On Wednesday, EPA announced it was awarding $460,000 in funding for research into integrated pest management, to help reduce the use of pesticides and lower risks to bees -- "all while controlling pests and saving money."

Louisiana State University, one of the grant recipients, will use its share of the funds to investigate how bees can be protected from pesticides used to control mosquitoes. Penn State University researchers will investigate the benefits of growing crops without treating seeds with neonic pesticides.

Read more: Food


Pesticide in frozen food sickens hundreds in Japan

frozen pizza
Rebecca Siegel

Some of the food that's been sold out of freezers in Japan recently has had a strange smell to it -- a fishy odor that has nothing to do with seafood.

It's the smell of malathion, an insecticide.

More than 1,000 people have been sickened so far by eating frozen foods laced with the pesticide, according to some media reports. From the BBC: