On April 11,Colorado State Rep. Joann Ginal's (D-Fort Collins) House Bill 1275 was heard, and died, in committee in the Colorado State Legislature. Rep Ginal's bill asked and proposed to answer a very honest and simple question, "Are people living near oil and gas drilling and fracking getting sicker than people who don't?" And, the bill would have provided that information to the public in a short timeframe.
Clean Water Action has a door-to-door campaign in the Denver metro area and across the northern Front Range where fracking is moving into suburban neighborhoods. We hear a lot of stories on people's doorsteps and we hear lots of stories from our colleagues involved in this issue. The stories we hear are similar to those reported in the newspaper and offered as testimony at recent meetings of the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission—people believe they are getting sick because of drilling and fracking near their homes, schools and neighborhoods.
The most common health complaints and concerns from people worrying about oil and gas drilling and fracking are neurological (headaches, dizziness), respiratory (cough, nose bleeds) and gastro-intestinal (stomach aches, diarrhea). In addition, people have concerns about long-term disease rates of exposure to cancer-causing fracking chemicals in the air and water. We also hear stories about people simply moving out of their homes and neighborhoods when fracking moves in.
And so Rep. Ginal's bill, which would have created and paid for a public health report on this topic, would seem to address a simple question in a short timeframe that is on the minds of tens-of-thousands of Colorado families across the Front Range. Nearly two dozen people testified in favor of the bill—some were medical professionals, including the Boulder County Health Dept., others were citizens who had experienced health issues as a result of drilling and fracking, and others were retired professional scientists.
What was striking, however, was who testified against the bill. First, was the oil and gas industry, whose testimony surprised no one. Of course, they have a vested financial interest in making sure the information Rep. Ginal hoped to gather would not be gathered or become public in the short term. After all, if people living near drilling and fracking are getting sicker, what might ensue? More local bans? More zoning regulations? A statewide ban?
Second, and very striking, was testimony from Dr. Chris Urbina, director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). That's right—the person who is in charge of ensuring that the Colorado public and environment is protected and healthy testified against a bill that would have let the public know if people living near drilling and fracking are getting sicker.
Dr. Urbina was appointed by Governor Hickenlooper, and Dr. Urbina also sits on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the statewide body that regulates drilling and fracking. Of course, Governor Hickenlooper's extreme biases on this topic are well known—he starred in a radio ad that was accused of providing false information to the public and was paid for by the natural gas industry, he bragged in front of a U.S. Senate subcommittee that he drank Halliburton's new "green" frack fluid, and he's vowed to sue any city (including Fort Collins) that bans fracking. Governor Hickenlooper used to work for the oil and gas industry.
Dr. Urbina testified that, in his opinion, his department was already embarking on a better long-term study than Rep. Ginal's bill would have done, and so therefore the committee should vote against Rep. Ginal's bill—his study would be complete in five years, whereas hers would have been complete in 18 months. HB 1275 died, on a five to six vote, with five Republicans and one Democrat voting against it—the Democrat lives in Weld County (Rep. Dave Young) which has more active oil and gas wells (18,000) than any county in the U.S. and derives a significant portion of its county income from oil and gas money. And, Rep. Young cited Dr. Urbina's testimony as his reason to vote against the bill.
Rep. Ginal's bill would have added significant new information to the public dialogue across the Front Range about the potential health impacts of drilling and fracking, and that information would have come forward in 18 months. Further, although this issue is on the minds of a vast number of Coloradans, HB 1275 was the only bill proposed in the 2013 Colorado legislature that dealt with the health impacts of fracking. Hundreds of new wells are being drilled and fracked every year with many of those butting right up against suburban Colorado. But because of Governor Hickenlooper and his CDPHE appointee, it will now be five years before the state's study is complete, and before you will know whether people living near drilling and fracking are getting sicker than those who don't.
In the meantime, you only have two choices—take your chances and stay in your home as your neighborhood is fracked, or speak with your feet and move. If you don't like those two choices, tough luck, because Governor Hickenlooper and his appointee, Dr. Urbina, killed this bill and your opportunity to make an informed and timely decision about your family's health.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
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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."
- Climate Crisis: What We Can Learn From Indigenous Traditions ... ›
- 10 Organizations Honoring Native People on Thanksgiving ... ›
- Biden Vows to Ax Keystone XL if Elected - EcoWatch ›
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.