As protesters took to the streets of Ferguson Monday night, one image, showing a protester standing alone in in an attempt to block police vehicles, was compared by some Twitter users to the iconic 1989 photographs of the Tiananmen Square ‘Tank Man’.
The EPA knew it was stepping onto a battlefield Wednesday when it released its final version of a rule aimed at protecting America’s stream and wetlands, clearing up confusion inherent in the original Clean Water Act and allowing regulators to stop pollution from spreading to the larger waterways on which one in three Americans rely for drinking water. And the agency was ready for the critics.
After news broke that Florida’s Republican governor Rick Scott’s administration had forbid state employees from using the phrase “climate change” during official business, many conservatives claimed that people were overreacting. After all, they reasoned, Rick Scott wouldn’t seriously punish scientists for talking about climate change.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a draft version of its report on whether fracking contaminates drinking water this week. I chatted with NRDC geologist Briana Mordick to find out more about the report’s findings.
PI: Why was the EPA looking into the relationship between fracking and drinking-water contamination?
BM: All around the country in places where fracking is booming, like Pennsylvania, Colorado, and North Dakota, people have reported concerns about their drinking water, but investigations have been few and far between. So, five years ago, Congress asked the EPA to study the potential impacts of fracking on drinking water. In response, the agency developed a first-of-it-kind research plan to examine this question, the draft results of which were finally released late last week.
Photo cred: Sarah Craig, Faces of Fracking
PI: What did they find?
BM: Fracking can, and has, contaminated drinking water—that’s a landmark conclusion. For years, the oil and gas industry has been claiming that there are no documented cases of fracking affecting drinking water. Hopefully this study finally puts an end to the use of that really unhelpful and misleading talking point.
PI: So why is the media reporting that the EPA found fracking *doesn’t* contaminate drinking water?
BM: In its high level summary, the EPA says that it did not find evidence that impacts to drinking water from fracking were widespread or systematic. So what’s going on? Well, the key word is “evidence.” Not finding evidence of impacts is not the same thing as not finding impacts. The reality is, the EPA doesn’t know how widespread or frequent the impacts are.
Why were some groups worried about the integrity of this report?
BM: In 2004, the EPA released a much narrower report, looking just at the potential impacts to drinking water from fracking in coal bed methane formations. Not long after it came out, a whistle-blower came forward and said the report, which basically declared fracking safe, had been heavily influenced by the oil and gas industry. Consequently, those findings have largely been dismissed. So I think people are worried that history will repeat itself.
PI: What happens next?
BM: This is a draft. The final report will be released following public comment and peer-review by the EPA’s Science Advisory Board, a group of outside scientists who help ensure that the agency’s research adheres to the highest scientific standards. Beyond that, the EPA isn’t just a research organization—it’s the regulatory body responsible for protecting our environment, so it should use that authority to address the risks it found to our drinking water from fracking.
Learn more from Briana about this issue on her blog, and check her out on Twitter, @secondstarlight
If President Obama was looking for an official reason to conclude that the Keystone XL pipeline was not in the national interest of the
U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency just delivered it to him in
the form of a letter.
EPA Must End Discrimination, Stop States from Permitting Polluters in Overburdened Communities of Color
Today, communities across the country sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to investigate their civil rights complaints for more than a decade. Thecomplaints involve discrimination by the states in granting permits that subject already overburdened low-income communities of color to more big-polluting facilities.
EPA accepted the complaints which are on permits for two gas-fired power plants in Pittsburg, Calif., a landfill in Tallassee, Ala., a hazardous waste facility in Chaves County, N.M., a wood-incinerator power station in Flint, Mich., and an oil-refinery expansion along the Texas Gulf Coast. These permits are for facilities in predominantly low-income African-American or Latino neighborhoods.
Today’s lawsuit seeks to compel the EPA to fulfill its duties to enforce Title VI of the Civil Rights Actand calls on the agency to finally investigate these discrimination cases and issue long overdue findings and recommendations.
The House Interior and Environment appropriations bill
would cut EPA funding by $718 million, or 9 percent, next year and
block a handful of environmental rules the agency is looking to put out
Democrats on a House Appropriations subcommittee
said they wouldn’t support the bill or deep cuts to the EPA, which has
sustained a 20 percent decrease in funding since Republicans took the
House in 2011.
“We are going backwards and the consequences will be
felt in communities all across the country,” Rep. Betty McCollum
(D-Minn.), the ranking member of the subcommittee, said at a Wednesday
The bill also blocks EPA rule-making on water oversight
and greenhouse gas emissions at power plants, two key planks in
President Obama’s environment agenda.
Republicans run the Congress and the Senate. They chair all the environmental committees, all the funding committees, and all the rulemaking committees. Why? Because young people did not vote in the mid-terms (polls show they barely know what mid-terms are). Old people voted, for this stuff.
Vote. Run for office. Participate in public meetings. Or lose it all.
Hundreds of West Virginia coal workers lost their jobs Tuesday, and according to Murray Energy, the company that laid them off, they have “the ongoing destruction of the United States coal industry by President Barack Obama, and his supporters” to thank. The layoffs — and the justification given for them — were conveniently timed to the legal battle beginning Thursday, in which Murray is one of the plaintiffs bringing suit against the Environmental Protection Agency for its proposed rule limiting carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. Regardless of what the actual reason for the layoffs might be, you can’t buy anti-regulatory propaganda like that.
Green groups say EPA underestimates methane leaks from fracking
D.J. Parker has been selling methane-trapping systems to oil and gas producers for over 30 years, and as unconventional drilling technologies like hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, have skyrocketed across the U.S., particularly under Barack Obama’s administration, Parker’s business has grown.
According to a report by the Associated Press, state officials permitted
oil and gas companies to dispose of waste and other fluids into
aquifers containing drinking and irrigation water more than 2,500
times. Significantly, 46 percent of these permits were authorized
within the last four years – the same timeframe during which the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warned California that
regulators were not sufficiently protecting underground water
reserves in the drought-stricken state.