Chesapeake Pleads Guilty to Clean Water Act Violations Associated with Marcellus Shale Drilling
According to a Department of Justice press release, Chesapeake Appalachia pled guilty on Oct. 5 in federal court to three violations of the Clean Water Act related to natural gas drilling activity in northern West Virginia.
The press release states:
Chesapeake pled guilty to three counts of "Unauthorized Discharge into a Water of the United States" in that it discharged sixty (60) tons of crushed stone and gravel into Blake Fork, a water of the United States, on at least three different occasions in December of 2008. Chesapeake also admitted that after discharging the stone and gravel that it then spread the material in the stream to create a roadway for the purpose of improving access to a site associated with Marcellus Shale drilling activity in Wetzel County, West Virginia.
“This criminal conviction sends a clear message to other companies involved with fracking activities across the country that such violations of the federal Clean Water Act will not be tolerated," said Kate Hudson, watershed program director for Riverkeeper, while commenting on the case. "It is unfortunate that the federal government’s authority to regulate environmentally destructive activities on the part of certain companies involved with shale gas extraction is not broader, because of the many loopholes and exemptions that the industry has been given, or we might be seeing more frequent and firm enforcement action being taken against those in the industry who are choosing to ignore the law.”
The press release continues by saying:
"Our nation's wetlands play a critical role in maintaining water quality, reducing flood damage, and providing habitat for fish and wildlife," said David G. McLeod, Jr., special agent in charge of EPA's [Environmental Protection Agency] criminal enforcement program in West Virginia. "The defendant illegally filled at least three sensitive wetlands; in one instance, obliterating a natural waterfall. This plea agreement demonstrates that those who illegally fill in or destroy these essential natural resources will be prosecuted."
Riverkeeper, an organization that protects the environmental, recreational and commercial integrity of the Hudson River and its tributaries, and safeguard the drinking water of nine million New York City and Hudson Valley residents, said they "commend the EPA for taking appropriate and strong enforcement action against Chesapeake for its blatant and purposeful disregard of federal law in pursuing its fracking activities in West Virginia."
The pleas agreement calls for Chesapeake to pay a fine of $200,000 for each conviction for a total fine of $600,000. It also requires that Chesapeake be placed onto probation for two years and be under the supervision of the Court during that time period, according to the press release.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>