650,000 Comments Call on Obama Administration to Ban Fracking on Public Lands
Yesterday, a coalition of 276 environmental and consumer organizations including Americans Against Fracking, 350.org, Berks Gas Truth, Center for Biological Diversity, CREDO Action, Democracy for America, Environmental Action, Daily Kos, Food & Water Watch, MoveOn, Progressive Democrats of America, The Post Carbon Institute and United For Action delivered to President Obama and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) nearly 650,000 public comments asking the federal government to ban hydraulic fracturing—fracking—on public lands.
This development amplifies the message sent by the 7,800 people who called the White House yesterday, urging President Obama to protect communities and their resources from the negative effects of fracking. The deadline for submitting public comments to the federal government regarding drilling and fracking on federal lands is today, Aug. 23.
“By allowing fracking on public lands, the BLM is participating in a form of legalized corruption that pollutes our democracy and undermines the national interest,” said actor and advocate Daryl Hannah.
“They are sacrificing our public lands, which they’ve been entrusted with, to the fossil fuel industry and private profits," she continued. "Instead, they should honor their mandate to ensure the health of these lands, their uncontaminated water, air, soil and biodiversity on behalf of all the citizenry and future generations.”
“From California, to Colorado, Pennsylvania to New York, and everywhere in between, the public understands that fracking poses an immediate threat to our water, air, health and climate, and they’re fighting back," said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter.
"President Obama needs to stop listening to the oil and gas industry and instead listen to the people who elected him,” Hauter added. “If President Obama truly wants to curb climate change and move us to a renewable energy future, he should listen to the science and ban fracking.”
A letter sent today to the President by Americans Against Fracking and its coalition partners explained that the BLM controls access to more than 700 million acres of federally owned mineral rights—most of which are beneath federal public and Native American land. Currently, about 38 million acres of federal public lands are leased, and over each of the past four years, the oil and gas industry has drilled over three thousand new wells, most of which will be or have been fracked.
“Fracking on public lands puts the drinking water of tens of millions of Americans at risk,” said Mike Hersh, a MoveOn volunteer organizer in Maryland and Maryland coordinator for Progressive Democrats of America. “MoveOn members are organizing in 43 states to protect our water, our climate, and our communities from fracking, and today we’re taking that call directly to President Obama—ban fracking on public lands.”
“As President Obama calls for urgent action on climate change, it makes no sense to usher in a new, monumental threat to our climate, with a massive expansion of fracking for oil and gas on public lands,” said Zack Malitz, campaign manager for CREDO. “President Obama should ban fracking on public lands.”
In June, President Obama articulated the importance of addressing global climate change in his Climate Action Plan. Yet drilling and fracking for oil and gas will only make the problem worse. Methane, the primary constituent of fracked gas, is a potent greenhouse gas, at least 25 times more efficient than carbon dioxide at trapping heat over a 100-year time frame, and causes between 79 to 105 times the climate forcing of carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration found that the rate of methane leakage in at least two active gas fields is much higher than the U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory’s current estimate.
“Many of us worked hard to elect President Obama because we wanted a President who would protect all Americans,” noted David Braun of United For Action. “It’s time for him to represent those who elected him, not big oil and gas. While it’s admirable that the President wants to tackle climate change, fracking has no place in any plan to combat it.”
“The Keystone XL fight is proof that everyday people can fight toe-to-toe with the fossil fuel industry to stop climate change,” added Jason Kowalski, policy director for 350.org. “Fracking is unlocking new carbon reserves, and this is carbon that climate scientists say we can’t afford to burn. President Obama takes climate change seriously, so he knows we can’t simply frack our way out of this problem.”
When burned, fracked gas produces significant amounts of carbon dioxide. In fact, even if methane leaks could be minimized to about one percent of what is produced, the International Energy Agency has estimated that a scenario of increased global dependence on fracked gas would increase the global average temperature by 3.5° Celsius, or by about 6.3° Fahrenheit, by 2035.
“Americans want President Obama to protect our beautiful public lands from fracking pollution,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “This inherently dangerous technology contaminates our air and water and disrupts our climate. The president has a duty to protect our environment and our communities by standing up to the oil and gas industry and prohibiting fracking in these wonderful wild places.”
Among the federal lands targeted for drilling and fracking are watersheds vital for the provision of clean drinking water for millions of Americans, such as the Shawnee National Forest in Illinois, Wayne National Forest in Ohio and George Washington National Forest in Virginia. Also targeted are federal lands near iconic national parks, such as Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah and Sequoia National Park in California, among others.
“Our public lands are a national treasure and a sacred trust passed by one generation of Americans to another,” said Drew Hudson of Environmental Action. “Fracking on public lands threatens the drinking water of millions of people, including the President’s daughters and everyone else here in Washington, D.C.
"It would also poison many of our last wild and pristine ecosystems," Hudson continued. "Fracking has no place on our public lands, and these citizens, more than half a million of them, are calling on the President and the Bureau of Land Management to say: ‘Yes we can ban fracking.’”
The submission of these comments comes just weeks after the Los Angeles Times revealed that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shut down a fracking-related water contamination investigation in Dimock, PA, despite evidence that water there was polluted. The Los Angeles Times reported that regional EPA staff warned senior EPA officials that water tests revealed high levels of methane in the drinking water of a number of homes in Dimock. Instead of continuing the investigation, the EPA abruptly closed the case, stopped water deliveries to the residents and deemed the water there safe to drink. This week, concerned Americans have convened in New York and Pennsylvania to protest EPA’s apparent mishandling of the Dimock investigation.
“President Obama need look no further than Pennsylvania’s Allegheny National Forest to see fracking’s devastating effects on our public lands," concluded Karen Feridun, founder of Berks Gas Truth. "Fracking is a dangerous, destructive practice that perpetuates our reliance on outmoded forms of energy. It has no more place on our public lands than it has in our energy future.”
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Kristen Fischer
It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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By Eoin Higgins
Over 300 groups on Monday urged Senate leadership to reject a bill currently under consideration that would incentivize communities to sell off their public water supplies to private companies for pennies on the dollar.
<div id="fea63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a6f211c2bc5aedd34837944cb8eeedf"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281000111481294849" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Water in Illinois is overwhelmingly public. Why is Tammy Duckworth sponsoring a bill that aims to change that? https://t.co/1V36Kkd99s</div> — The American Prospect (@The American Prospect)<a href="https://twitter.com/TheProspect/statuses/1281000111481294849">1594249201.0</a></blockquote></div>
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By Alyssa Murdoch, Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle and Sapna Sharma
Summer has finally arrived in the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska, liberating hundreds of thousands of northern stream fish from their wintering habitats.
A Good News Story?<p>On the surface, the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/fwb.13569" target="_blank">results from our study</a> appear to provide a "good news" story. Warming temperatures were linked to higher numbers of fish, more species overall and, therefore, potentially more fishing opportunities for northerners.</p><p>Initially, we were surprised to learn that warming was increasing the distribution of cold-adapted fish. We reasoned that modest amounts of warming could lead to benefits such as increased food and winter habitat availability without reaching stressful levels for many species.</p>
Photo of Arctic grayling (left) and Dolly Varden trout (right). Alyssa Murdoch / Lilian Tran / Nunavik Research Centre and Tracey Loewen / Fisheries and Oceans Canada<p>Yet, not all fish species fared equally well. Ecologically unique northern species — those that have evolved in colder, more nutrient-poor environments, such as Arctic grayling and Dolly Varden trout — were showing declines with warming.</p>
Fish Strandings and Buried Eggs<p>Recent news headlines run the gamut for Pacific salmon — from their increased escapades <a href="https://nunatsiaq.com/stories/article/more-pacific-salmon-showing-up-in-western-arctic-waters/" target="_blank">into the Arctic</a> to <a href="https://www.juneauempire.com/news/warm-waters-across-alaska-cause-salmon-die-offs/" target="_blank">massive pre-spawning die-offs</a> in central Alaska. Similarly, results from our study revealed different outcomes for fish depending on local climatic conditions, including Pacific salmon.</p><p>We found that warmer spring and fall temperatures may be helping juvenile salmon by providing a longer and more plentiful growing season, and by supporting early egg development in northern regions that were previously too cold for survival.</p><p>In contrast, salmon declined in regions that were experiencing wetter fall conditions, pointing to an increased risk of flooding and sedimentation that could bury or dislodge incubating eggs.</p>
Headwaters of the Wind River within the largely intact Peel River watershed in northern Canada. Don Reid / Wildlife Conservation Society Canada / Author provided<p>Interestingly, we found that certain climatic combinations, such as warmer summer water temperatures with decreased summer rainfall, were important in determining where Pacific salmon could survive. Summer warming in drier watersheds led to declines, suggesting that lowered streamflows may have increased the risk of fish becoming stranded in subpar habitats that were too warm and crowded.</p>
The Fate of Northern Fisheries<p>The promise of a warmer and more accessible Arctic has attracted mounting interest in new economic opportunities, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2019.103637" target="_blank">including fisheries</a>. As warming rates at higher latitudes are already <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank">two to three times global levels</a>, it seems probable that northern biodiversity will experience dramatic shifts in the coming decades.</p><p>Despite the many unknowns surrounding the future of Pacific salmon, many fisheries are currently <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/03632415.2017.1374251" target="_blank">thriving following warmer and more productive northern oceans</a>, and some <a href="https://doi.org/10.14430/arctic68876" target="_blank">Arctic Indigenous communities are developing new salmon fisheries</a>.</p><p>As warming continues, the commercial salmon fishing industry is poised to expand northwards, but its success will largely depend on extenuating factors such as <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060023067" target="_blank">changes to marine habitat and food sources</a> and <a href="https://www.yukon-news.com/news/promising-chinook-salmon-run-failed-to-materialize-in-the-yukon-river-panel-hears/" target="_blank">how many fish are caught during the freshwater stages of their journey</a>.</p><p>Even with the potential for increased northern biodiversity, it is important to recognize that some northern communities may be unable to adapt or may <a href="https://thenarwhal.ca/searching-for-the-yukon-rivers-missing-chinook/" target="_blank">lose individual species that are associated with important cultural values</a>.</p>
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By Joni Sweet
If you get a call from a number you don't recognize, don't hit decline — it might be a contact tracer calling to let you know that someone you've been near has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Interviews With Contact Tracers<p>Contact tracing is a public health strategy that involves identifying everyone who may have been in contact with a person who has the coronavirus. Contact tracers collect information and provide guidance to help contain the transmission of disease.</p><p>It's been used during outbreaks of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), Ebola, measles, and now the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.</p><p>It starts when the local department of health gets a report of a confirmed case of the coronavirus in its community and gives that person a call. The contact tracer usually provides information on how to isolate and when to get treatment, then tries to figure out who else the person may have exposed.</p><p>"We ask who they've been in contact with in the 48 hours prior to symptom onset, or 2 days before the date of their positive test if they don't have symptoms," said <a href="https://case.edu/medicine/healthintegration/people/heidi-gullett" target="_blank">Dr. Heidi Gullett</a>, associate director of the Center for Community Health Integration at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and medical director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health in Ohio.</p>
“You’ve Been Exposed”<p>After the case interview, contact tracers will get to work calling the folks who may have been exposed to the coronavirus by the person who tested positive.</p><p>"We give them recommendations about quarantining or isolating, getting tested, and what to do if they become sick. If they're not already sick, we still want them to self-quarantine so that they don't spread the disease to anyone else if they were to become sick," said Labus.</p><p>Generally, the contact tracer won't ask for additional contacts unless they happen to call someone who is sick or has a confirmed case of the virus. They will help ensure the contact has the resources they need to isolate themselves, if necessary. The contact tracer may continue to stay in touch with that person over the next 14 days.</p><p>"We follow the percentage of people that were contacts, then converted into being actual cases of the virus. It's an important marker to help us understand what kind of transmission happens in our community and how to control the virus," said Gullett.</p>
Why You Should Participate (and What Happens If You Don’t)<p>A <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(20)30457-6/fulltext" target="_blank">Lancet study</a> from June 16, which looked at data from more than 40,000 people, found that COVID-19 transmission could be reduced by 64 percent through isolating those who have the coronavirus, quarantining their household, and contacting the people they may have exposed.</p><p>The combination strategy was significantly more effective than mass random testing or just isolating the sick person and members of their household.</p><p>However, contact tracing is only as effective as people's willingness to participate, and a small number of people who've contracted the coronavirus or were potentially exposed are reluctant to talk.</p><p>"Contact tracers have all been hung up on, cussed at, yelled at," said Gullet.</p><p>The hesitation to talk to contact tracers often stems from concerns over privacy — a serious issue in healthcare.</p>
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