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Fracking

Hundreds of Floridians gathered today to urge elected officials to pass a fracking ban, commit to increasing renewable energy sources and protect our waterways.

"Banning fracking in Florida is one of the best things we can do to protect our treasured waterways, public health and economy," said State Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater). "I stand with the 90 cities and counties in Florida that have passed ordinances or resolutions calling on us, the State Legislature, to pass this important legislation."

Nationwide opposition to hydraulic fracturing has escalated dramatically over the past year as public awareness of its impacts grows.

"The time has finally come to end this dangerous practice," said State Sen. Gary Farmer (D-Ft. Lauderdale). "This bill represents the now bipartisan recognition that Florida's unique geological makeup leaves our water supply particularly vulnerable and must be protected."

The gathering follows introduction of a bicameral, bipartisan fracking ban bill in the Florida Legislature with widespread support. Sen. Dana Young (R-Tampa), present at the event, introduced the bill into the Senate. Representative Mike Miller (R-Orlando) introduced the House ban bill on the same day. Both ban bills have received overwhelming bipartisan support, garnering dozens of cosponsors from around the state.

"The overwhelming support for a fracking ban doesn't stop here in Tallahassee; communities across the state have passed 90 local measures opposing the practice. Floridians have made it clear: we do not want fracking here," said Michelle Allen, Florida organizer with Food & Water Watch. "Just last week, the historically pro-energy, Republican Governor of Maryland came out in support of a fracking ban. We know now that people coming together can beat out Big Oil interests and win for our environment and communities, so we're looking to our legislators to listen to the will of the people in Florida and ban fracking now."

Students from Cornerstone Learning Community in Tallahassee attended in support of the legislation as well.

"We, as the future generation, understand how important it is to protect our water, animals and environment from the dangers of fracking," said Claire Encinosa, a 5th grader speaking on behalf of her class at the Cornerstone Learning Community. "Fracking will not just pollute our world but also make us sick, cause birth defects and even cancer. We want the Florida Legislature to ban fracking for the future."

Advocates also called for strong, common-sense implementation of Amendment 4, the pro-solar initiative 73 percent of voters passed last August, which makes it easier for businesses to implement solar energy.

"With the overwhelming support of Amendment 4, the doors are wide open for solar power in the Sunshine State," said Clifford Mitchem, Independent Energy Adviser for CREW, a member-owned solar cooperative. "It's now up to our legislators to help us walk through the door."

After this year's toxic algae outbreaks, just as many are calling for the preservation and protection of our precious water resources.

"Business as usual will drain our aquifers and poison what's left," said Burt Eno, president of Rainbow River Conservation. "We must balance our water permits with monitoring to ensure users don't take too much water and we need to better manage fertilizer, industrial and stormwater runoff to avoid polluting our waters."

Groups involved today, included ReThink Energy Florida, Food & Water Watch, Sierra Club, Environment Florida, Floridians Against Fracking, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Organize Florida and Florida Conservation Voters. They cited more than 900 health studies for why fracking has no place in the Sunshine State.

"Floridians continue to call on their elected officials to pass legislation banning fracking, promoting renewable energy and protecting our vital clean water supplies," said Kim Ross, president of ReThink Energy Florida.

"Floridians continue to call on their elected officials to pass legislation banning fracking, promoting renewable energy and protecting our vital clean water supplies," said Kim Ross, president of ReThink Energy Florida. "From the Keys, to Tampa, Jacksonville and Gainesville—hundreds of Floridians are here to inspire our leaders to reclaim Florida's future, environment, and health."

Fracking

The Maryland House of Delegates passed a milestone fracking ban bill Friday with unprecedented bipartisan support. House Bill 1325, which passed by a vote of 97 to 40, would ban hydraulic fracturing statewide.

Public opposition to the practice has grown over the past year, as more than a dozen counties and cities across the state have already passed local resolutions and ordinances to ban fracking and more than 1,000 Marylanders marched through the state capitol last week to demand a fracking ban.

"We cannot afford to put our health, our ecology or the growing economy of Western Maryland at risk for fracking. That is why a total ban is necessary and supported by the people of Maryland," said Kumar Barve, chairman of the House Environment & Transportation Committee that put forth the bill.

"As a longtime proponent of legislative initiatives to protect Maryland from the dangers of fracking, I commend the Maryland House of Delegates for voting in support of a fracking ban," said Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo who introduced the bill. "Across the country, fracking is polluting the air and water of countless communities and making people sick. The passing of this bill is a huge step forward in securing Maryland as a national leader in combating climate change and protecting our citizens."

Residents from across the state have sent more than 35,000 petitions and letters in support of a ban to the General Assembly. More than 200 businesses, the majority from Western Maryland, and more than 200 Maryland health professionals sent letters to the General Assembly in support of the bill.

"The passing of the fracking ban bill through the House by a 57 vote margin is truly a watershed moment for Maryland," said Mitch Jones, senior policy advocate at Food & Water Watch. "The current overwhelming support from Maryland delegates shows an understanding that without a ban, public health and local businesses cannot be protected. We applaud this critical step towards preserving the resources and economy of Maryland and call on the Senate to follow the lead of the House."

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Politics

By Jo Miles

We all expected that Trump's cabinet would mean trouble for many of the things we care about, from clean energy and healthy communities to our very democracy itself. But his chosen nominees are worse than we could have imagined. These individuals, responsible for the policies and decisions that affect the lives and well-being of all Americans, have a combined net worth of more than $13 billion so far—that's five times the net worth of President Obama's cabinet and more wealth than a third of American households. As you might expect, their ties to corporations run deep and those ties are reflected in their positions and past actions. Here's what you should know about what Trump's nominees mean for our food, water, environment and democracy—and how you can oppose their confirmations:

Scott Pruitt

Nominated for: U.S. EPA Administrator

Why you should worry: Pruitt has bragged about suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) multiple times, has often decried its decisions and now he's on deck to run it. His troubling history includes:

  • He opposed attempts to regulate fracking on federal lands.
  • He condemned the EPA's attempts to study fracking's impact on drinking water as politically motivated.
  • He's pushed the interests of industrial agriculture in Oklahoma, including a deregulatory "right to farm" measure.

Corporate ties: He's a member of ALEC—American Legislative Exchange Council—and has taken about $300,000 in campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry. Fossil fuel CEO Harold Hamm chaired his 2014 re-election campaign.

Notable quote: "It should come as no surprise that I am working diligently with Oklahoma energy companies […] to fight the unlawful overreach of the EPA and other federal agencies."

What you can do: Send an email to your senators asking them to reject Pruitt.

Rex Tillerson

Nominated for: Secretary of State

Why you should worry: His tenure at Exxon gives us insight into how he'd behave as Secretary of State:

  • He's presided over major deals with Russia to expand oil and gas development.
  • Exxon targeted Germany, a nation with a strong commitment to renewables and energy efficiency, for natural gas drilling and fracking.
  • Under Tillerson's leadership, Exxon continued to fund groups that promoted climate denial and spread misinformation about the threat of climate change.

Corporate ties: He's the former CEO of ExxonMobil and has been since 2006. He owns Exxon shares worth $151 million.

Notable fact: Tillerson once sued to keep water towers for a fracking project out of his own backyard.

What you can do: Send an email to your senators asking them to reject Tillerson.

Led by Food & Water Watch, more than 200 public interest and environmental groups sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today, urging the agency to heed the recommendation of its own independent Science Advisory Board (SAB) and clarify the seemingly unsupported top-line finding of the June 2015 draft fracking report.

The EPA's June 2015 draft of the study featured a dismissive and unsupported topline finding—that fracking has not led to "widespread, systemic" problems nationally, as if that should be the bar. The groups back the SAB's recommendation that the EPA either drop the controversial language or provide a "quantitative analysis" to support it.

The letter, signed by hundreds of national, statewide and local environmental and public interest groups, representing millions of members, was sent directly to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. It is being sent on the heels of an EnergyWire FOIA report indicating that the Obama White House was engaged in the "messaging" for the rollout of the controversial EPA study, stating that "White House aides kept tabs on what the 'topline messages' would be."

In the letter, environmental groups specifically call on the EPA to revisit its statement of findings, consistent with the SAB recommendations, and resolve the three major problems with the controversial line:

1. The EPA did not provide a sense of what the agency would have considered "widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States."

2. The "widespread, systemic" line is problematic because it presumes, without discussion, that looking on a national scale, over several years, provides an appropriate metric for evaluating the significance of known impacts.

3. The "widespread, systemic" line is problematic because the EPA failed to explain adequately the impediments to arriving at quantitative estimates for the frequencies and severities of the impacts already occurring.

The letter continues:

"By dismissing fracking's impacts on drinking water resources as not 'widespread, systemic,' the EPA seriously misrepresented the findings of its underlying study. This has done the public a disservice. We feel the agency now owes it to the public—and particularly to those already impacted by 'hydraulic fracturing activities'—to address these criticisms."

Other organizations that signed today's letter include: Sierra Club, Indigenous Environmental Network, Natural Resources Defense Council, Greenpeace, Earthjustice, League of Conservation Voters, Union of Concerned Scientists, Friends of the Earth, 350.org and Clean Water Action.

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