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Doctors orders: stop fracking Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Medical Society—the state's largest medical group—is calling for a moratorium on the controversial natural gas extraction method and is urging the state legislature to fund an independent health registry and commission research studies on the health effects of fracking.
Fracking chemicals have been detected in the state's drinking water.
"As physicians of Pennsylvania, we care first and foremost about the health of our community and believe that when an activity raises potential harm to human health, precautionary measures should be taken until cause and effect relationships are fully established scientifically," the resolution states.
Pennsylvania sits on one of the country's most active and notorious fracking regions—nearly 10,000 fracking wells have been drilled in the gas-rich Marcellus shale in the past decade, turning the state into a fracking powerhouse. However, this activity has come at a cost to human and environmental helath.
One study linked Pennsylvania's unconventional natural gas development to migraine headaches, fatigue, and nasal and sinus symptoms. In another study, researchers combed through years of health records from 40 counties in north and central Pennsylvania and determined that people who live close to fracking wells have a higher risk of asthma attacks among asthma patients.
Last week, the Yale School of Public Health published a study determining that 55 unique chemicals could be classified as known, probable or possible human carcinogens. They also specifically identified 20 compounds that had evidence of leukemia/lymphoma risk.
Furthermore, the resolution highlights how fracking has been associated with significant environmental harm. It argues that highly toxic fracking chemicals have been making their way into aquifers and contaminating drinking water, that 9 percent of gas wells leak methane directly into the atmosphere contributing to climate change, and that the disposal of fracking fluid in waste injection wells can cause earthquakes.
"Three years ago, the Medical Society turned down a similar resolution calling for a moratorium on gas drilling. However, in the last three years growing evidence has shown its increasing deleterious effects outweighs any economic benefit," said Dr. Walter Tsou, executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility/Philadelphia and the author of the resolution.
"We do support a moratorium at this point because of questions that have been raised," Montgomery County doctor and the Pennsylvania Medical Society president Charles Cutler told the Pittsburgh Gazette. "Those questions now point to the need for a registry and more science and research to give us a better understanding about whether fracking is safe and what the risk is."
However, Jeffrey Sheridan, who is Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf's spokesman, told the newspaper that a statewide moratorium is unlikely.
"The governor understands the importance of the natural gas industry and he wants the industry to succeed while protecting the health of our residents and our environment,'' he said. "Gov. Wolf has proposed methane regulations that are in the process of being implemented, and his administration developed some of the most stringent regulations on unconventional well drilling in the country that were recently finalized.
"The governor will continue to find ways to support the industry while ensuring we are protecting the environment and the health of Pennsylvania residents."
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By Julia Conley
Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.
The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.
The climate crisis has become a driving and dividing factor in the political arena in recent years. According to the survey, almost three-quarters of respondents think global warming is happening (though that number varies across party lines) with more than half of registered voters agreeing that it is driven by human activities. As such, six-in-ten voters are worried about the current state of the climate — a marked increase from the last survey conducted in March 2018.
When asked how much they would support different strategies the government could use to reduce air pollution, more than three-quarters agreed that investing in renewable energy research and infrastructure and regulating pollution was a priority, as well as taxing pollution (requiring companies to pay a tax on pollution they emit to encourage a reduction in emissions). A majority of respondents also support more specific policies to reduce carbon pollution and promote clean energy, including a revenue-neutral carbon tax and a fee on carbon pollution that distributes money to U.S. citizens through monthly dividend checks. Furthermore, many support a Clean Power Plan that implements strict carbon dioxide emission limits on existing coal-fired power plants. A majority of voters also say they want policies that address the pollution that causes global warming and reduces pollution investments, regulations and taxes.
Climate change ranks as the 17th most important voting issue and is a more polarizing topic than abortion. So much so, that almost half of registered voters say they would support a president who declared global warming a national emergency if Congress does not act.
A handful of 2020 presidential candidates have put climate change at the forefront of their campaign platform as part of ongoing pressure to combat the effects of climate change. The Green New Deal, unveiled in part by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) earlier this year is a decade-long plan that will "mobilize every aspect of American society ... to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and create economic prosperity for all," according to a section of the resolution from her office posted by NPR.
Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, who introduced a plan just a few days ago to combat climate change. In it, Bennet calls for the establishment of a "Climate Bank" to use federal spending to incentivize the private sector to transition to net-zero emissions by 2050. His opponent, Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State, similarly announced a clean energy plan earlier this month dubbed the "100 Percent Clean Energy for America Plan" that would aim to phase out coal over the next decade and require all power production to be emissions-free by 2035.
Former Vice President Joe Biden also threw his name into the running hat but didn't mention climate change in his announcement. His overall stand on the Green New Deal and fossil fuel infrastructure is hazy. His campaign website promises environmental action but does not go into further detail. If elected president, Senator Elizabeth Warren has promised an executive order to ban new fossil fuel extraction leases in federal lands and waters.
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President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.
"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.
"There was a lot of devastation throughout the state," Governor Mike Parson said at a Thursday morning press conference, as NPR reported. "We were very fortunate last night that we didn't have more injuries than what we had, and we didn't have more fatalities across the state. But three is too many."
georgeclerk / E+ / Getty Images
By Jennifer Molidor
One million species are at risk of extinction from human activity, warns a recent study by scientists with the United Nations. We need to cut greenhouse gas pollution across all sectors to avoid catastrophic climate change — and we need to do it fast, said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
This research should serve as a rallying cry for polluting industries to make major changes now. Yet the agriculture industry continues to lag behind.
"The Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism wishes to inform the public that following extensive consultations with all stakeholders, the Government of Botswana has taken a decision to lift the hunting suspension," the government announced in a press release shared on social media.