EPA Funds for Fracking Impact Study Rejected by North Carolina Officials
North Carolina’s mining and energy commissioners are in the midst of a fracking battle—and they’re winning. They’re arguing that the state’s regulations for clean water protection are over-the-top and unnecessary, all while corralling anti-fracking advocates into the same category as Bigfoot believers.
“We all know this,” commissioner George Howard said, referring to his belief that there is a lack of proof connecting groundwater contamination with fracking. “A lot of this stuff is like Bigfoot regulation—he doesn’t exist.”
Commissioners are going so far as to recommend a rollback of what are now considered the strictest protections in the nation, to the dismay of landowners living near and above natural gas reserves. As it stands, operators have to test local wells before fracking begins, in order to provide a “before” sample.
The arguments come at a time when the nation is split on the issue, with studies indicating a link exists between fracking and groundwater contamination. Incomplete government studies have yet to issue any conclusion, yet those responsible for regulating the oil and gas industry are using a lack of information as justification that fracking poses no threat to anyone, anywhere.
The pro-industry rhetoric in North Carolina comes on the heels of Gov. McCrory’s (R-NC) decision to reject the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grants that would have funded water quality studies in some of the state’s most vulnerable wetland areas.
The justification? The fracking boom isn’t enough of an issue in North Carolina to warrant such environmental studies. According to the most recent commissioners debate, however, fracking is enough of an issue to consider changes to its regulations in favor of industry.
The commissioners’ sentiment is based on the argument that water contamination related to fracking operations allegedly doesn’t exist.
“What we’re doing is trying to inoculate the population against a disease that doesn’t exist,” commissioner Charles Holbrook told the Charlotte Observer. “The science does not support even the possibility that hydraulic fracturing fluid can migrate that far out from the well—it can’t happen.”
While the commissioners’ stances are up for debate, it’s clear they’re promoting a pro-industry narrative. In August, the commissioners backed legislation that would give oil and gas companies the right to drill on private lands, regardless of homeowners’ wishes. The justification rests in the argument that homeowners would get paid—but payment isn’t everything to everyone.
“They could potentially be pooled against their will in certain rare circumstances,” Commissioner Jim Womack told the Associated Press, adding that the scenario is fair.
But still, according to the governor, the industry isn’t prevalent enough to accept EPA funds for testing.
A Battle of Information
Holbrook is correct on the argument that government-supported studies have not yet proven groundwater contamination, as the EPA recently pushed back its deadline for its study release from 2014 to 2016. The study, which began in 2010 under the direction of Congress, was specifically tailored to assess whether or not groundwater supplies—and the surrounding air—are contaminated by the fracking process.
A preliminary report released by the U.S. government this year indicated there was, at the time of its release, no link yet discovered between fracking and drinking water contamination in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale formation. While the study was immediately picked up by industry and touted as undeniable proof that fracking poses no threat to water supplies, the agency that conducted the study was quick to put that notion to rest.
Following the release of a prominent Associated Press article highlighting the preliminary report’s supposed findings, the National Energy and Technology Laboratory, the body that conducted the study, released a statement clarifying its research:
NETL has been conducting a study to monitor for any signs of groundwater contamination as a result of hydraulic fracturing operations at a site on the Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania. We are still in the early stages of collecting, analyzing and validating data from this site. While nothing of concern has been found thus far, the results are far too preliminary to make any firm claims. We expect a final report on the results by the end of the calendar year.
Under that premise, it seems too soon for Holbrook and his colleagues to claim studies have yielded no link—more accurate would be to say that incomplete studies have failed to provide the full picture.
But then there are other studies, conducted independent of the government.
Duke University conducted a report in June indicating homeowners living near fracking operations were at risk for drinking water contamination, largely due to leaked gasses.
Using 141 drinking water samples taken from residential wells in northeastern Pennsylvania, researchers found that, on average, “methane concentrations were six times higher and ethane concentrations were 23 times higher at homes within a kilometer of a shale gas well,” according to a press release issued by Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.
The study also indicated propane levels were detected in at least 10 samples, all from private wells located within a kilometer of fracking operations.
“Our studies demonstrate that the integrity of gas wells, as well as variations in local and regional geology, play major roles in determining the possible risk of groundwater impacts from shale gas development,” Avner Vengosh, a geochemistry professor at Duke, said. “As such, they must be taken into consideration before drilling begins.”
Even under arguments that existing studies do not prove a direct and positive correlation between fracking operations and water contamination, there is little room to argue that any studies proving otherwise exist, either.
The question for North Carolina commissioners, then, is why they are so sure—sure enough to turn down the EPA funds that would assure state residents that they aren’t at risk.
Why Deny the Grants?
The funds the state turned away were initially requested by the North Carolina Wetlands Programs Development Unit, which was dismantled by McCrory when he took office.
The wetlands unit was part of the Division of Water Resources, which has come out in support of the government’s denial of EPA funds. In all, $600,000 worth of federal grants were awarded to the Division of Water Resources to conduct studies on the potential impact fracking has in wetland areas. According to the Daily Tar Heel, nearly $223,000 of those funds were devoted to testing impact of streams and wetlands where fracking is most likely to take place.
According to Tom Reeder, the director of the Division of Water Resources, the grants were turned down because they were not necessary, as the state does not have any current fracking operations near wetland areas.
“I find when you get in these types of discussions when there’s a lot of accusations being made, it’s good to inject a little reality into the discussion now and again,” Reeder told the Mining and Energy Commission, according to the Daily Tar Heel.
Rejecting the EPA grants, however, wasn’t the only option Reeder had if his organization wasn’t interested in carrying out the studies at this time. As noted by George Matthis, a former Department of Natural Resources employee, grants from the EPA can be extended in order to fit a department’s needs.
Commissioners agreed, referring to the grants and the studies as not having “sufficient value,” although at this point there was no denying that fracking near wetlands in the state will eventually occur.
It’s true that North Carolina hasn’t exactly been the hub of the fracking industry, but it appears as though this will change.
According to News Observer writer Daniel L. Fine, the reason North Carolina has been off-limits is because of its strict rules that have scared the industry away.
“The answer is political,” Fine writes. “North Carolina has been in self-imposed isolation from the industry that invests and operates oil and gas exploration. Until now, it has not been worth the airfare for a company to send an exploration geologist from Denver to Raleigh. North Carolina law has prohibited hydraulic fracturing. New state leadership is prepared to change this and create the necessary government authority and institutions to issue permits, regulate and manage the economic benefits for people of North Carolina.”
It seems the government is nearly there.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
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By Jill Joyce
Maybe you're trying to eat healthier these days, aiming to get enough of the good stuff and limit the less-good stuff. You're paying attention to things like fiber and fat and vitamins … and anti-nutrients?
What Are Anti-Nutrients?<p><a href="https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/anti-nutrients/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Anti-nutrients are substances</a> that naturally occur in plant and animal foods.</p><p>The name comes from how they function in your body once you eat them. They <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/food-science/antinutrients" target="_blank">block or interfere with how your body</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1631/jzus.B0710640" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">absorbs other nutrients</a> out of your gut and into your bloodstream so you can then use them. Thus, anti-nutrients may decrease the amount of nutrients you actually get from your food. They most commonly interfere with the absorption of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2016.09.025" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium and zinc</a>.</p><p>Plants evolved these <a href="https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/070111p54.shtml" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">compounds as a defensive mechanism</a> against insects, parasites, bacteria and fungi. For example, some anti-nutrients can cause a food to taste bitter; animals won't want to eat it, leaving the seed, for instance, to provide nourishment for future seedlings. Some anti-nutrients block the digestion of seeds that are eaten. The seeds disperse when they come out the other end in the animal's fecal matter and can go on to grow new plants. Both of these survival tactics help the plant species grow and spread.</p><p><span></span>In terms of foods that people eat, you'll most commonly find anti-nutrients naturally occurring in whole grains and legumes.</p>
Time for an Image Makeover as Health Enhancers<p>Despite sounding scary, studies show that anti-nutrients are not of concern unless consumed in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcs.2014.01.010" target="_blank">ultra, unrealistically high amounts</a> – and they have numerous health benefits.</p><p>Anti-nutrients are currently undergoing a change in image very similar to the one dietary fiber experienced. At one point, scientists thought dietary fiber was bad for people. Since fiber could bind to nutrients and pull them out of the digestive tract in poop, it seemed like something to avoid. To address this perceived issue, grain processing in the late 1800s removed fiber from foods.</p><p>But now scientists know that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00189.x" target="_blank">dietary fiber is incredibly important</a> and encourage its consumption. Eating plenty of fiber lowers the risks of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some gastrointestinal diseases.</p><p>In the same way, rather than something to avoid, many anti-nutrients are now considered health-promoting nutraceuticals and functional foods due to their numerous benefits. Here's an introduction to some of the most frequently eaten anti-nutrients that come with benefits:</p><ul><li><a href="https://doi.org/10.1089/109662004322984734" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Saponins, common in legumes</a>, can boost the immune system, reduce risk of cancer, lower cholesterol, lower blood sugar response to foods, result in fewer cavities, reduce risk of kidney stones and combat blood clotting seen in heart attacks and strokes.</li><li><a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcs.2014.01.010" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Lectins, found in cereal grains and legumes</a>, are associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, some cancers and becoming overweight or obese.</li><li><a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/10408699891274273" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Tannins, commonly found in teas, coffees and processed meats and cheeses</a>, are antioxidants that can inhibit growth of bacteria, viruses, fungi and yeast and may decrease cholesterol levels and blood pressure.</li><li><a href="https://doi.org/10.1631/jzus.B0710640" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Phytates, found in wheat, barley, rice and corn</a>, are associated with increased immune function and cancer cell death, as well as reduced cancer cell growth and spread. They also have antioxidant properties and can reduce inflammation.</li><li>Finally, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1024/0300-98220.127.116.11" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">glucosinates, found in brassica vegetables</a> like cauliflower, inhibit tumor cell growth.</li></ul><p>Oxalates are one of the few anti-nutrients with mostly negative impacts on the body. They are <a href="https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/aa166321" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">found in lots of common foods</a>, including legumes, beets, berries, cranberries, oranges, chocolate, tofu, wheat bran, soda, coffee, tea, beer, dark green vegetables and sweet potatoes. The negative impacts of oxalates include binding to calcium in the digestive tract and removing it from the body in bowel movements. Oxalates can also <a href="https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/aa166321" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">increase the risk of kidney stones</a> in some people.</p>
Fitting Anti-Nutrients Into a Healthy Diet<p>Overall, comparing the benefits to the drawbacks, anti-nutrient pros actually outweigh the cons. The healthy foods that contain them – mainly fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes – should be encouraged not avoided.</p><p>Anti-nutrients become a concern only if these foods are consumed in ultra-high amounts, <a href="https://www.ars.usda.gov/research/project/?accnNo=426312" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">which is very unlikely</a> for most adults and children in the U.S. Additionally, a large proportion of anti-nutrients are removed or lost from foods people eat <a href="https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/anti-nutrients/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as they're processed and cooked</a>, especially if soaking, blanching, boiling or other high-heat processes are involved.</p><p>Vegetarians and vegans may be at higher risk of negative effects from anti-nutrients because their diet relies heavily on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. But these <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2016.09.025" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">plant-based diets are still among the healthiest</a> and are associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes and numerous types of cancers.</p><p>Vegetarians and vegans can take a few steps to help counteract anti-nutrients' effects on their absorption of particular nutrients:</p><ul><li>Pair high iron <a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/130.5.1378S" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">and zinc</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.afnr.2014.11.003" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">foods with</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/59.5.1233S" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">foods high in vitamin C</a> (examples: meatballs with tomato sauce, tomato-based chili with beans).</li><li><a href="https://www.jblearning.com/catalog/productdetails/9780763779764?jblsearch" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Soak legumes before cooking</a>.</li><li><a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/70.3.543s" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Time dairy intake</a> such that it is not always paired with high oxalate foods.</li><li>Purchase dairy products that are fortified with calcium.</li><li>Consider a multivitamin-mineral supplement with about 100% of the daily recommended dose of nutrients (check the nutrition facts panel) as nutrition insurance if you are worried, but be sure to talk to your doctor first.<em></em></li></ul><p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jill-joyce-1172925" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Jill Joyce</a> is an assistant professor of Public Health Nutrition at Oklahoma State University.</em></p><p><em>Disclosure statement: Jill Joyce does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/anti-nutrients-theyre-part-of-a-normal-diet-and-not-as-scary-as-they-sound-149229" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Conversation</a>.</em></p>
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Toxins enter the body through what we eat, drink, breathe in, and process in any way. Once inside, toxins overtax our immune system and detoxification system and leave us more vulnerable to illness — not ideal during cold and flu season, and especially not this year during a pandemic — and make us age a little faster, too.
1. Source Your Food Wisely<p>Try to stay away from packaged and processed foods that contain ingredients you can't pronounce, and instead reach for fresh food from natural sources. Aim to make vegetables more than 50% of your daily diet — their fiber is a great natural binder, and they're full of beneficial <a href="https://vitalplan.com/blog/the-case-of-the-missing-phytochemicals-and-how-to-get-them-back" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" style="">phytochemicals</a> — and minimize your red meat consumption.</p><p>Also, whenever practical, choose <a href="https://vitalplan.com/blog/how-to-eat-organic-without-spending-a-fortune" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">organic</a> over conventional products. That said, we know organic prices and accessibility can be an issue, so for help making strategic decisions, refer to the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Environmental Working Group</a> (EWG) "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean Fifteen" lists:</p><h3>The Dirty Dozen:</h3><ol><li>Strawberries</li><li>Spinach</li><li>Kale</li><li>Nectarines</li><li>Apples</li><li>Grapes</li><li>Peaches</li><li>Cherries</li><li>Pears</li><li>Tomatoes</li><li>Celery</li><li>Potatoes</li><li>Raisins*</li></ol><p><em>(*While raisins aren't technically a fresh food, the EWG found that they are "one of the dirtiest produce commodities on the market — and even some organic raisins are contaminated.")</em></p><h3>The Clean Fifteen</h3><ol><li>Avocado</li><li>Sweet corn</li><li>Pineapple</li><li>Onion</li><li>Papaya</li><li>Frozen sweet peas</li><li>Eggplant</li><li>Asparagus</li><li>Cauliflower</li><li>Cantaloupe</li><li>Broccoli</li><li>Mushrooms</li><li>Cabbage</li><li>Honeydew</li><li>Kiwi</li></ol>
2. Consider Detoxifying and Immune-Boosting Herbs<p>There are a number of herbs and natural ingredients that can help support detoxification and immune health. Here are the ones at the top of Dr. Rawls' list:</p><p><span></span><strong>Chlorella:</strong> This nutrient-rich freshwater algae binds to toxins so they can be eliminated from your body more efficiently. Chlorella works particularly well for withdrawing heavy metals. Pure chlorella can be purchased in the form of bulk powder, tablets, or capsules.</p><p><strong><a href="https://vitalplan.com/ingredients/milk-thistle" target="_blank">Milk Thistle</a>:</strong> It's been used for thousands of years to support a healthy liver, the primary organ responsible for detoxification.</p><p><strong>Dandelion:</strong> Known to help support liver function, research suggests <a href="https://vitalplan.com/ingredients/dandelion-extract" target="_blank">dandelion</a> helps promote the body's natural detoxification and elimination processes.</p><p><strong>Bitters:</strong> <a href="https://vitalplan.com/blog/the-impressive-health-benefits-of-bitter-foods" target="_blank">Bitter</a> flavors are important to digestion — they stimulate the release of the saliva, enzymes, and bile that help break down your food. Include bitter herbs and foods in each meal, or take a botanical extract that blends bitter herbs like dandelion root, burdock root, orange peel, and gentian root</p><p><strong>Reishi mushroom:</strong> An extensively studied adaptogenic mushroom, <a href="https://vitalplan.com/ingredients/reishi" target="_blank">reishi</a> has exceptional immunomodulating and antiviral properties. It helps normalize <a href="https://vitalplan.com/blog/are-you-inflammaging-how-to-stop-the-inflammation-that-speeds-up-aging" target="_blank">inflammatory</a> cytokines and promotes healthy immune response against threatening <a href="https://vitalplan.com/blog/the-immortal-life-of-your-microbiome" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">microbes</a>.</p><p><strong>Rhodiola:</strong> Another adaptogen, <a href="https://vitalplan.com/ingredients/rhodiola" target="_blank">rhodiola</a> improves stress tolerance by reducing fatigue, supporting energy levels, and improving tissue oxygenation.</p><p><span></span><strong><a href="https://vitalplan.com/ingredients/turmeric" target="_blank">Turmeric</a>:</strong> This popular spice is well loved for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.</p><p><strong>Shilajit:</strong> An herbo-mineral adaptogen, <a href="https://vitalplan.com/ingredients/shilajit" target="_blank">shilajit</a> has a long history of use in traditional Indian medicine for longevity and strength. It's also an immunomodulator with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties.</p><p><strong>Gotu Kola:</strong> Best known for improving memory and mood, <a href="https://vitalplan.com/ingredients/gotu-kola" target="_blank">gotu kola</a> is also great for promoting a normal response to inflammation, balancing stress hormones, and supporting circulation.</p>
3. Filter Your Water<p>Much of America's tap water has been shown to contain pollutants, so filtering what comes out of your kitchen sink is smart. To be sure you're using a filter that does the trick, keep these guidelines in mind:</p><ul><li>Look for a filter certified by NSF International or the Water Quality Association.</li><li>Choose one that removes the contaminants in your water (check your local drinking water quality report to see what's present).</li><li>Change your water filters on time.</li></ul>
4. Choose Safe and Effective Cleaning Supplies<p>When buying household cleaning products, don't bring home chemicals that could harm your health more than some of the microbes you're trying to get rid of. Fortunately, there are a number of products on the market that work safely; here are some ways to shop wisely:</p><ul><li>Look for the Green Seal, Ecologo, or Safer Choice (EPA) seals.</li><li>Opt for fragrance-free options.</li><li>Avoid triclosan and quaternary ammonium compounds or "quats." (One tactic is to choose products that don't advertise as "antibacterial.")</li><li>Consult the EWG's list of <a href="https://www.ewg.org/news-and-analysis/2020/03/16-effective-and-safe-products-guard-against-coronavirus" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">safe and effective products</a> for guarding against coronavirus.</li></ul>
5. Opt for Non-Toxic Beauty and Personal Care Products<p>There are a lot of claims made on beauty and self-care products these days, but words alone, like "natural," "organic," "non-toxic," "clean," "green," and "eco-friendly," don't mean a thing — they aren't backed by any sort of regulatory or certification processes. Instead, to find non-toxic products you trust, you have to do a little research.</p><p>Start by checking reputable ratings databases like <a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Skin Deep</a> (EWG) and <a href="https://www.thinkdirtyapp.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Think Dirty</a>. Another good bet: Look for reliable third-party certifications on products labels, including:</p><ul><li>USDA Organic</li><li>EWG Verified</li><li>Made Safe</li><li>NSF/ANSI 305</li><li>Natural Products Association Certified</li><li>Whole Foods Market Premium Body Care</li></ul>
6. Get Outside<p>One more reason to <a href="https://vitalplan.com/blog/how-to-feel-great-and-boost-longevity-in-just-17-minutes-a-day" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" style="">get outdoors</a> beyond combatting cabin fever: The air in natural environments is generally much cleaner than indoor air. For one, outdoor air contains ⅔ less carbon dioxide, high levels of which negatively affect our productivity, <a href="https://vitalplan.com/blog/natural-sleep-aids" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" style="">sleep</a>, and more.</p><p>Forest air in particular contains phytoncides, organic compounds emitted by trees and plants that have been shown to boost our immune system function, plus plants in general help neutralize toxic substances in the air. Forests, open spaces, and open water are also rich in negative ions, which reduce inflammation.</p><p>So take your pick of natural environs, and get out there as often as possible — while still maintaining at least 6 feet of distance between yourself and others, of course.</p>
7. Bring Nature Indoors<p>Plants are natural air purifiers, so bringing some plants indoors can help clear the air in your home. Here's a list of the top 10 air-purifying plants to consider:</p><ul><li>Areca palm</li><li>Lady palm</li><li>Bamboo palm</li><li>Rubber plant</li><li>Dracaena</li><li>English ivy</li><li>Dwarf date palm</li><li>Ficus</li><li>Boston fern</li><li>Peace lily</li></ul>
8. Drive Less, Move More<p>Staying off the roads decreases air pollution, and the fact that many of us are driving less these days is noticeably improving air quality. If your commute is on hold, try to translate some of your usual travel time into getting more physical activity, or sneak in more movement between other normal routines.</p><p>Exercise improves circulation, oxygenates your tissues, and enhances the work of the lymphatic system through muscle contractions — all of which make it easier to move toxins out of your body.</p>
9. Practice Forgiveness<p>Through the practice of gratitude, we stay centered and in the present moment. This allows us to move through situations from our heart. Take time to forgive someone or yourself for things in the past. When we forgive, we expand and open up to endless possibilities.</p>
10. Quit a Bad Habit<p>Are you a smoker? Pack rat? Chronically sleep-deprived? In a bad relationship? Toxins come into our lives in many forms. Consider if you're participating in any unhealthy patterns or holding onto anything that no longer serves you, and then find a way to limit those things in your life.</p>
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