8-Year Fracking Moratorium Bill Introduced in Maryland as Californians Demand Real Climate Action
On his way out of office last November, former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley opened the door to allowing fracking in that state, albeit under heavy regulation. That raised concerns that incoming pro-fracking Republican Governor Larry Hogan would dispense with many of the regulations, allowing extraction companies free reign.
Yesterday a group of Maryland legislators introduced a bill to head off that possibility. Forty-eight legislators introduced the Protect Our Health and Communities Act to enact a long-term moratorium on fracking.
“Today we announce a new effort to place a moratorium on fracking in our state," said Senate bill sponsor Karen Montgomery. "This bill will allow us to maintain the public’s confidence as we continue to gather data on the long-term effects of the hydraulic fracturing process. Without more scientific data on the public health consequences, we cannot engage in possibly risky energy projects.”
“Almost every week a new study emerges pointing to the alarming health and environmental effects of fracking,” said delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo, the House bill sponsor. “To open up Maryland to fracking at this time would simply be reckless.”
"We write to update you concerning trends in recent health research on unconventional natural gas development and production, enabled by hydraulic fracturing and commonly referred to as 'fracking,'" it said. "The scientific literature now includes 400+ peer-reviewed studies on the public health climate and environmental dimensions of this type of unconventional gas development, the vast majority of which suggest that high-volume hydraulic fracturing technologies pose threats to human and animal health and safety via contamination of air, water and soil. There is little evidence that these threats can be sufficiently mitigated through regulatory frameworks."
The letter goes on to detail the findings of numerous studies showing that fracking poses a danger to human health.
“Given the nature of the chemicals used in the fracking process, we may see increases in cancers, neurologic diseases, cardiac and respiratory diseases, and developmental disorders in coming years, but it will take time for these effects to show up,” said Dr. Gina Angiola, board member of Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility and CHP-Md cofounder.
Two counties in Maryland's western panhandle sit atop the gas-rich Marcellus and Utica shale formations, and fracking has, as usual, been promoted as a jobs generator and economic driver.
“As a nurse-midwife, I am deeply concerned about the elevated risks of birth defects and low birth weight babies seen in families near fracking sites," said Katie Huffling, director of programs for the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments and a cofounder of CHP-Md. "We need to protect our future generations and continue a moratorium on fracking in Maryland."
In New York, another state that natural gas extraction companies have been eying hungrily, Governor Andrew Cuomo delighted environmental advocates in December by announcing a permanent ban on fracking. At the time, he referred to the likelihood that the ban would draw lawsuits which hasn't yet occurred because the final ban language isn't written. But one New York legislator, Chris Collins, who represents the state's gas-heavy western region, called the ban "a sad day for the future of the economy of upstate New York" and said he is considering pushing for federal legislation to override state bans.
While New York was banning fracking, Illinois was giving it the go-ahead. In early November, the state government finalized regulations that allowed it to proceed, despite intense opposition from environmental and citizen groups. But the boom that was supposed to create as many as 10,000 jobs in the southern part of the state hasn't materialized, due to the drop in oil and gas prices.
Annette McMichael, a spokesman for Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment (SAFE), told the Associated Press that her group “believed all along the price of oil is not going to be sustainable, and once it fell the fossil fuel industry would be leaving Illinois—or at least putting hydraulic fracturing on hold. We certainly hope oil prices stay depressed for 2015, which is a good possibility.”
Meanwhile, in California, which has drilled 300 new wells a month for the last decade, half of them fracked, opponents are planning a major rally this Saturday, Feb. 7 in Governor Jerry Brown's hometown Oakland. Dubbed March for Real Climate Leadership, they hope to draw more than 10,000 people to the event, sponsored by more than 120 environmental, labor, justice and community groups. While activists have praised Brown's commitment to renewable energy and addressing climate change, they are dismayed that he has not acted to limit fracking.
"Climate leaders don't frack," Kassie Siegal of the Center for Biological Diversity told AP reporter Juliet Williams. "The oil and gas boom threatens to undercut all the other progress that our state may make on climate."
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By Gwen Ranniger
In the midst of a pandemic, sales of cleaning products have skyrocketed, and many feel a need to clean more often. Knowing what to look for when purchasing cleaning supplies can help prevent unwanted and dangerous toxics from entering your home.
1. Fragrance – Avoid It<p>One of the fastest ways to narrow down your product options is immediately eliminating any product that promotes a fragrance, or parfum. That scent of "fresh breeze" or lemon might initially smell good, but the fragrance does not last. What does last? The concoction of various undisclosed and unregulated chemicals that created that fragrance.</p><p>Many fragrances contain phthalates, which are linked to many health risks including reproductive problems and cancer.</p>
2. With Bleach? Do Without<p>Going scent-free should have narrowed down your options substantially – now, check the front of the remaining packaging. Any that include ammonia or chlorine bleach ought to go, as these substances are irritating and corrosive to your body. While bleach is commonly known as a powerful disinfectant, there are safer alternatives that you can use in your home, such as sodium borate or hydrogen peroxide.</p><p>While you're at it, check if there are any warnings on the label – "flammable," "use in ventilated area," etc. – if the product is hazardous, that's a red flag and should be avoided.</p>
3. Check the Back Label<p>Flip to the back of the remaining contenders and check out that ingredient list. Less is more, here. Opt for a shorter ingredient list with words you recognize and/or can pronounce.</p><p>You may notice many products do not have ingredient lists – while this doesn't necessarily mean they contain toxic ingredients, transparency is key. Feel free to look up a list online, or stick to products that are open about their ingredients.</p>
4. Ingredients to Avoid<p>We already mentioned that cleaners containing fragrance or parfum, and bleach or ammonia should be avoided, but there are other ingredients to look out for as well.</p><ul><li>Quaternary ammonium "quats" – lung irritants that contribute to asthma and other breathing problems. Also linger on surfaces long after they've been cleaned.</li><li>Parabens – Known hormone disruptor; can contribute to ailments such as cancer</li><li>Triclosan – triclosan and other antibacterial chemicals are registered with the EPA as pesticides. Triclosan is a known hormone disruptor and can also impact your immune system.</li><li>Formaldehyde – Causes irritation of eyes, nose, and throat; studies suggest formaldehyde exposure is linked with certain varieties of cancer. Can be found in products or become a byproduct of chemical reactions in the air.</li></ul>
Cleaning Products and Toxics: The Bottom Line<p>Do your research. There are many cleaning products available, but taking these steps will drastically reduce your options and help keep your home toxic-free. Protecting your home from bacteria and viruses is important, but make sure you do so in a way that doesn't introduce other health risks into the home.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank">Environmental Health News</a>. </em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649054624#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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Twenty-five years ago, a food called Tofurky made its debut on grocery store shelves. Since then, the tofu-based roast has become a beloved part of many vegetarians' holiday feasts.
By Jessica Corbett
A leading environmental advocacy group marked Native American Heritage Month on Wednesday by urging President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Kamala Harris, and the entire incoming administration "to honor Indigenous sovereignty and immediately halt the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and Line 3 pipelines."
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Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
By Jake Johnson
Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.