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'Don't Frack L.A.'s Future' Billboard Targets Oil Industry Air Pollution

Energy
'Don't Frack L.A.'s Future' Billboard Targets Oil Industry Air Pollution

A striking new billboard on Westwood Boulevard warns Los Angeles residents that fracking, acidization and other dirty forms of oil production pollute the air and endanger the health of children and other vulnerable people. The billboard, sponsored by the Center for Biological Diversity, reads “Don’t Frack L.A.’s Future” and directs readers to FrackingPollutesCalifornia.org.

The billboard, featuring a picture of a baby in a gas mask, is located above 2346 Westwood Blvd., north of West Pico Blvd. Part of a series of billboard advertisements highlighting fracking’s threats to public health and the climate, the new ad follows revelations that toxic air pollutants have been used hundreds of times in recent months at oil and gas wells in L.A. and Orange County. The ad is part of a larger campaign to persuade Gov. Brown (D-CA) to halt fracking and L.A.-area air officials to protect public health and the environment from oil industry pollution.

“Oil companies are contaminating California’s air with formaldehyde and other toxic chemicals, and kids are especially vulnerable,” said Rose Braz, who coordinates the Center of Biological Diversity's anti-fracking campaign. “We can’t afford to frack our future. To protect our air, health and climate, we need Gov. Brown and other leaders to halt fracking and other toxic techniques.”

A coalition of health and environmental organizations last week called on the South Coast Air Quality Management District to better protect Los Angeles residents from air pollution caused by fracking and other dangerous oil and gas extraction methods. New data from the air district shows that oil companies have used thousands of tons of “air toxics” at area oil and gas wells over the past five months.

Labeled “air toxics” because they are among the most dangerous air pollutants, these chemicals can cause illness and death. A few examples:

  • Methanol, used 329 times in L.A.-area wells in recent months, is harmful to the skin and eyes, as well as the respiratory and cardiovascular system.  
  • Hydrochloric acid, used 197 times, can harm sensory organs, lungs and the cardiovascular and immune systems.
  • 2-Butoxy ethanol, used 47 times, can harm the brain and lungs and is linked to liver cancer and adrenal tumors.

The air district has also allowed oil companies to use trade secret claims thousands of times to keep certain chemicals hidden from public disclosure.

The American Lung Association says there is irrefutable evidence of serious threats to human health from air pollutants emitted during fracking and other forms of oil and natural gas production. Infants, children and teenagers are among those most at risk.

Fracking involves blasting huge volumes of water mixed with toxic chemicals into the earth to break up rock formations. In acidization, oil companies inject acids underground to discover oil-bearing formations.

Pollution from fracking, acidization and other forms of oil production also threatens California’s efforts to fight climate disruption. A recent study found that the methane leak rate from Los Angeles-area oil and gas operations was 17 percent. Because methane is a powerful greenhouse pollutant, leakage rates of more than three percent make even natural gas worse for the climate than coal.

“Los Angeles residents deserve full transparency from oil companies about the dangerous chemicals being spewed into the air,” Braz said. “But disclosure alone won’t protect our hearts and lungs. To shield ourselves and our future, we need Gov. Brown to put a stop to fracking, acidization and other extreme oil recovery techniques.”

Tell Gov. Brown and the California Department of Conservation to Ban Fracking in California.

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.

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An illustration depicts the extinct woolly rhino. Heinrich Harder / Wikimedia Commons

The last Ice Age eliminated some giant mammals, like the woolly rhino. Conventional thinking initially attributed their extinction to hunting. While overhunting may have contributed, a new study pinpointed a different reason for the woolly rhinos' extinction: climate change.

The last of the woolly rhinos went extinct in Siberia nearly 14,000 years ago, just when the Earth's climate began changing from its frozen conditions to something warmer, wetter and less favorable to the large land mammal. DNA tests conducted by scientists on 14 well-preserved rhinos point to rapid warming as the culprit, CNN reported.

"Humans are well known to alter their environment and so the assumption is that if it was a large animal it would have been useful to people as food and that must have caused its demise," says Edana Lord, a graduate student at the Center for Paleogenetics in Stockholm, Sweden, and co-first author of the paper, Smithsonian Magazine reported. "But our findings highlight the role of rapid climate change in the woolly rhino's extinction."

The study, published in Current Biology, notes that the rhino population stayed fairly consistent for tens of thousands of years until 18,500 years ago. That means that people and rhinos lived together in Northern Siberia for roughly 13,000 years before rhinos went extinct, Science News reported.

The findings are an ominous harbinger for large species during the current climate crisis. As EcoWatch reported, nearly 1,000 species are expected to go extinct within the next 100 years due to their inability to adapt to a rapidly changing climate. Tigers, eagles and rhinos are especially vulnerable.

The difference between now and the phenomenon 14,000 years ago is that human activity is directly responsible for the current climate crisis.

To figure out the cause of the woolly rhinos' extinction, scientists examined DNA from different rhinos across Siberia. The tissue, bone and hair samples allowed them to deduce the population size and diversity for tens of thousands of years prior to extinction, CNN reported.

Researchers spent years exploring the Siberian permafrost to find enough samples. Then they had to look for pristine genetic material, Smithsonian Magazine reported.

It turns out the wooly rhinos actually thrived as they lived alongside humans.

"It was initially thought that humans appeared in northeastern Siberia fourteen or fifteen thousand years ago, around when the woolly rhinoceros went extinct. But recently, there have been several discoveries of much older human occupation sites, the most famous of which is around thirty thousand years old," senior author Love Dalén, a professor of evolutionary genetics at the Center for Paleogenetics, said in a press release.

"This paper shows that woolly rhino coexisted with people for millennia without any significant impact on their population," Grant Zazula, a paleontologist for Canada's Yukon territory and Simon Fraser University who was not involved in the research, told Smithsonian Magazine. "Then all of a sudden the climate changed and they went extinct."

A large patch of leaked oil and the vessel MV Wakashio near Blue Bay Marine Park off the coast of southeast Mauritius on Aug. 6, 2020. AFP via Getty Images

The environmental disaster that Mauritius is facing is starting to appear as its pristine waters turn black, its fish wash up dead, and its sea birds are unable to take flight, as they are limp under the weight of the fuel covering them. For all the damage to the centuries-old coral that surrounds the tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean, scientists are realizing that the damage could have been much worse and there are broad lessons for the shipping industry, according to Al Jazeera.

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A quality engineer examines new solar panels in a factory. alvarez / Getty Images

Transitioning to renewable energy can help reduce global warming, and Jennie Stephens of Northeastern University says it can also drive social change.

For example, she says that locally owned businesses can lead the local clean energy economy and create new jobs in underserved communities.

"We really need to think about … connecting climate and energy with other issues that people wake up every day really worried about," she says, "whether it be jobs, housing, transportation, health and well-being."

To maximize that potential, she says the energy sector must have more women and people of color in positions of influence. Research shows that leadership in the solar industry, for example, is currently dominated by white men.

"I think that a more inclusive, diverse leadership is essential to be able to effectively make these connections," Stephens says. "Diversity is not just about who people are and their identity, but the ideas and the priorities and the approaches and the lens that they bring to the world."

So she says by elevating diverse voices, organizations can better connect the climate benefits of clean energy with social and economic transformation.

Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.

The frozen meat section at a supermarket in Hong Kong, China, in February. Chukrut Budrul / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images

Imported frozen food in three Chinese cities has tested positive for the new coronavirus, but public health experts say you still shouldn't worry too much about catching the virus from food or packaging.

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Although heat waves rarely get the attention that hurricanes do, they kill far more people per year in the U.S. and abroad. greenaperture / Getty Images

By Jeff Berardelli

Note: This story was originally published on August 6, 2020

If asked to recall a hurricane, odds are you'd immediately invoke memorable names like Sandy, Katrina or Harvey. You'd probably even remember something specific about the impact of the storm. But if asked to recall a heat wave, a vague recollection that it was hot during your last summer vacation may be about as specific as you can get.

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