New Fracking Standards Not Supported by Environmental Organizations
Environmental organizations are objecting to a misleading announcement coming from the oil and gas industry that says they have “made peace” with environmentalists by agreeing to voluntary fracking standards.
According to the announcement made, the oil and gas industry believes the new standards “could ease or avert some of the ferocious battles over fracking that have been waged in statehouses and city halls.” They’re wrong. In fact, the anti-fracking movement is large and getting larger as evidence mounts that fracking cannot be done safely, contributes to climate change, endangers the human and animal health and safety, tears apart communities, and pollutes our air and water.
“The cynical intentions of the drillers are stated clearly in the announcement. They say they want to ‘hasten the expansion of fracking.’ They say they want to ‘bypass the often turbulent legislative process altogether.’ They say they want to make ‘drilling more acceptable to states and communities that fear the environmental consequences.’ Making drilling more acceptable and making drilling safer is not the same thing. These statements reveal the industry’s self-serving attitude known all too well to those whose lives have been impacted by drilling,” said Karen Feridun, founder of Berks Gas Truth.
The voluntary standards are listed on the oxymoronically-named website sustainableshale.org. The so-called “tough new standards” don’t appear to be substantially different from the corresponding regulations the industry has been blatantly disregarding for years. In addition, they fail to address many issues including radioactivity, methane migration, drill cuttings, community disruption, forest fragmentation, LNG, and compressor stations, to name but a few.
"The overwhelming harm of gas development on communities being drilled and our natural environment demands real action, not limp attempts at ‘management’ that just rearrange the deck chairs on a sinking ship," said Tracy Carluccio, deputy director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network. "First, we need a nationwide moratorium on drilling, then we need to let science and health professionals fully examine and expose the truth about the inherently polluting fracking process, while we work as a nation to replace these deadly resource extraction industries with energy efficiency and clean, truly sustainable energy sources,"
"The only way for the fracking industry to self-regulate itself in a fashion that protects the people of Pennsylvania is to kindly end its operations in Pennsylvania and exit our state," said Sam Bernhardt, Pennsylvania organizer at Food & Water Watch. "Pennsylvania needs a ban on fracking, and it needs it now."
This may be the most cynical aspect of all—a newly-created Center for Sustainable Shale Development would be comprised of a 12-member board tasked with overseeing the voluntary standards program.
“The center’s proposed 2013 budget is $800,000, with the two sides expected to contribute equal amounts,” says the program’s interim leader. It would appear that the obscenely wealthy oil and gas companies are only putting up half of the money and that the rest would come from those who would otherwise be funding efforts to fight on behalf of the environment and communities.
“Experience has shown that large, industry-oriented environmental groups do not necessarily represent the interests of grassroots, community-based organizations,” said Melissa Troutman, outreach coordinator of Mountain Watershed Association. “If you read the book Managing Activism: PR Advice for Neutralizing Democracy, author Denise Deegan advises that this sort of ‘dialogue’ is industry’s most effective method for managing activists. In our experience, this is true.”
The anti-fracking movement extends far beyond the environmental community to include religious groups, sportsmen’s associations, health organizations, social justice organizations, renewable energy organizations, political groups, farming associations, and others. The groups the industry worked with on this project are not generally considered to be among the hundreds of groups in the movement in Pennsylvania, as they have maintained an industry-friendly stance on drilling.
Jay Sweeney, chair of the Green Party of Pennsylvania said, “I was flabbergasted to read the article saying the oil & gas industry had made peace with environmentalists. I read the article looking to find out exactly what environmentalists had been consulted and found none. The Green Party of Pennsylvania stands by our position that fracking must be banned!”
“This brilliant propaganda on the part of the gas industry and national groups that are not so much environmental organizations as they are greenwashing collaborators only serves to underscore the collective fear they have of how organized, how effective, how nimble, and how truly threatening the grassroots coalition against fracking has become to the interests of the corporate profit agenda of the fossil fuel barons,” said Julie Edgar, organizer of Lehigh Valley Gas Truth. “We stand united—we will not be co-opted—we will not be mollified by what amounts to no more than a crock of radioactive fracking sludge.”
“The Center for Sustainable Shale Development, a new greenwashing group backed by the oil and gas industry, will not mitigate the economic, environmental and public health threats posed by hydraulic fracturing (fracking). That is because no amount of regulations can ever make fracking safe. It is an inherently dangerous practice.
“Americans Against Fracking, a coalition representing over 190 organizations dedicated to protecting Americans from the devastating effects of fracking, urges the public and policy makers to see this endeavor for what it is: a thinly veiled attempt to mask the irreparable damage posed by a practice that has been linked to air and water contamination, cardiovascular disease and the industrialization of rural communities.
“This center does not represent the interests of the environmental community, and very few members of the movement to protect communities and their vital resources from fracking were consulted in the development of the center’s so-called ‘standards.’ In fact, there is a growing movement that recognizes that fracking must be banned. Partnerships such as this only set the stage to escalate fracking activity, while reinforcing our addiction to fossil fuels.
"This initiative is brought to us by the same industry that negotiated exemptions from key environmental protections such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. We can’t trust them to take the physical or economic safety of Americans to heart."
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Mark Hertsgaard
What follows are not candidate endorsements. Rather, this nonpartisan guide aims to inform voters' choices, help journalists decide what races to follow, and explore what the 2020 elections could portend for climate action in the United States in 2021 and beyond.
Will the White House Turn Green?<p>Whether the White House changes hands is the most important climate question of the 2020 elections. President Donald Trump rejects climate science, is withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement, and has accelerated fossil fuel development. His climate policy seems to be, as he tweeted in January when rejecting a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal to protect New York City from storm surges, "Get your mops and buckets ready."</p><p>Joe Biden, who started the 2020 campaign with a climate position so weak that activists gave it an "F," called Trump a "climate arsonist" during California's recent wildfires. Biden backs a $2 trillion plan to create millions of jobs while slashing emissions—a Green New Deal in all but name. Equally striking, his running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris, has endorsed phasing out fossil fuel production—a politically explosive scientific imperative.</p><p>The race will be decided in a handful of battleground states, five of which already face grave climate dangers: Florida (hurricanes and sea-level rise), North Carolina (ditto), Texas (storms and drought), Michigan (floods), and Arizona (heat waves and drought). <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/visualizations-data/ycom-us/" target="_blank">Public concern is rising</a> in these states, but will that concern translate into votes?</p>
Will Democrats Flip the Senate, and by Enough to Pass a Green New Deal?<p>With Democrats all but certain to maintain their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate will determine whether a potential Biden administration can actually deliver climate progress. Democrats need to pick up three seats to flip the Senate if Biden wins, four if he doesn't. But since aggressive climate policy is shunned by some Democrats, notably Joe Manchin of coal-dependent West Virginia, Democrats probably need to gain five or six Senate seats to pass a Green New Deal.</p><p>Environmentalists, including the League of Conservation Voters, are targeting six Republicans who polls suggest are vulnerable.</p><ul><li>Steve Daines of Montana, who denies climate science</li><li>Martha McSally of Arizona</li><li>Thom Tillis of North Carolina</li><li>Susan Collins of Maine</li><li>Joni Ernst of Iowa (bankrolled by Charles Koch)</li><li>John James of Michigan (also a Koch beneficiary)</li></ul><p>Republican Senators are even at risk in conservative Kansas and Alaska. In both states, the Democratic candidates are physicians—not a bad credential amid a pandemic—who support climate action. In Kansas, Barbara Bollier faces an incumbent funded by Charles Koch. In Alaska, Al Gross urges a transition away from oil, though his openness to limited drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve dims his appeal to green groups. He faces incumbent Republican Dan Sullivan, who receives an 8 percent lifetime voting record from the League of Conservation Voters.</p>
Will Local and State Races Advance Climate Progress?<h4>THE CLIMATE HAWKS</h4><p>Under Democratic and Republican leadership alike, Washington has long been a graveyard for strong climate action. But governors can boost or block renewable energy; the Vermont and New Hampshire races are worth watching. Attorneys general can sue fossil fuel companies for lying about climate change; climate hawks are running for the top law enforcement seats in Montana and North Carolina. State legislatures can accelerate or delay climate progress, as the new Democratic majorities in Virginia have shown. Here, races to watch include Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Colorado.</p><h4>THE CLIMATE POLICY MAKERS</h4><p>Perhaps the most powerful, and most overlooked, climate policy makers are public utility commissions. They control whether pipelines and other energy infrastructure gets built; they regulate whether electric utilities expand solar and energy efficiency or stick with the carbon-heavy status quo. Regulatory capture and outright corruption are not uncommon.</p><p>A prime example is Arizona, where a former two-term commissioner known as the godfather of solar in the state is seeking a comeback. Bill Mundell argues that since Arizona law permits utilities to contribute to commissioners' electoral campaigns, the companies can buy their own regulators. Which may explain why super-sunny Arizona has so little installed solar capacity.</p><p>In South Dakota, Remi Bald Eagle, a Native American U.S. Army veteran, seeks a seat on the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, which rules on the Standing Rock oil pipeline. And in what <em>HuffPost</em> called "the most important environmental race in the country," Democrat Chrysta Castaneda, who favors phasing out oil production, is running for the Texas Railroad Commission, which despite its name decides what oil, gas, and electric companies in America's leading petro-state can build.</p>
Will the Influencers Usher in a Green New Era?<h4>THE UNCOUNTED</h4><p>The story that goes largely under-reported in every U.S. election is how few Americans vote. In 2016, some 90 million, <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2018/08/09/an-examination-of-the-2016-electorate-based-on-validated-voters/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">roughly four out of every 10 eligible voters</a>, did not cast a ballot. Attorney Nathaniel Stinnett claims that 10 million of these nonvoters nevertheless identify as environmentalists: They support green policies, even donate to activist groups; they just don't vote. Stinnett's <a href="https://www.environmentalvoter.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Environmental Voter Project</a> works to awaken this sleeping giant.</p><h4>THE SUNRISE MOVEMENT</h4><p>Meanwhile, the young climate activists of the <a href="http://www.sunrisemovement.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sunrise Movement</a> are already winning elections with an unabashedly Green New Deal message. More than any other group, Sunrise pushed the Green New Deal into the national political conversation, helping Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey draft the eponymous congressional resolution. In 2020, Sunrise has helped Green New Deal champions defeat centrists in Democratic primaries, with Markey dealing Representative Joe Kennedy Jr. the first defeat a Kennedy has ever suffered in a Massachusetts election. But can Sunrise also be successful against Republicans in the general elections this fall?</p><h4>THE STARPOWER</h4><p>And an intriguing wild card: celebrity firepower, grassroots activism, and big-bucks marketing have converged behind a campaign to get Latina mothers to vote climate in 2020. Latinos have long been the U.S. demographic most concerned about climate change. Now, <a href="https://votelikeamadre.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Vote Like A Madre</a> aims to get 5 million Latina mothers in Florida, Texas, and Arizona to the polls. Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayak, and Lin-Manuel Miranda are urging mothers to make a "pinky promise" to vote for their kids' climate future in November. Turning out even a quarter of those 5 million voters, though no easy task, could swing the results in three states Trump must win to remain president, which brings us back to the first category, "Will the White House Turn Green?"</p>
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By Tony Carnie
South Africa is home to around 1,300 of the world's roughly 7,100 remaining cheetahs. It's also the only country in the world with significant cheetah population growth, thanks largely to a nongovernmental conservation project that depends on careful and intensive human management of small, fenced-in cheetah populations. Because most of the reserves are privately funded and properly fenced, the animals benefit from higher levels of security than in the increasingly thinly funded state reserves.
Vincent van der Merwe at a cheetah translocation. Endangered Wildlife Trust
Under Pressure<p>Cheetah populations elsewhere in Southern Africa have not prospered over the past 50 years. In Zimbabwe, cheetah numbers have crashed from 1,500 in 1975, to just 170 today. Botswana's cheetah population has held steady at around 1,500 over the same period, but illegal capture for captive breeding and conflicts with farmers and the growing human population are increasing. In Namibia, there were an estimated 3,000 cheetah in in 1975; roughly 1,400 remain today.</p><p>In contrast, South Africa's cheetah numbers have grown from about 500 in 1975 to nearly 1,300 today. Van der Merwe, who is also a Ph.D. student at the University of Cape Town's Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa (iCWild), says he's confident that South Africa will soon overtake Namibia and Botswana, largely because the majority of South African cheetahs are protected and managed behind fences, whereas most of the animals in the neighboring countries remain more vulnerable on mainly unfenced lands.</p><p>Wildlife researchers Florian Weise and colleagues have reported that private stock owners in Namibia still trap cheetahs mainly for translocation, but there are few public or private reserves large enough to contain them. Weise says that conservation efforts need to focus on improving tolerance toward cheetahs in commercial livestock and game farming areas to reduce indiscriminate trapping.</p><p>Van der Merwe says fences can be both a blessing and a curse. While these barriers prevent cheetahs and other wild animals from migrating naturally to breed and feed, they also protect cheetahs from the growing tide of threats from humanity and agriculture.</p><p>To simulate natural dispersion patterns that guard against inbreeding, the trust helps landowners swap their animals with other cheetah reserves elsewhere in the country. The South African metapopulation project has been so successful in boosting numbers that the trust is having to look beyond national boundaries to secure new translocation areas in Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique.</p><p>Cheetah translocations have been going on in South Africa since the mid-1960s, when the first unsuccessful attempts were made to move scores of these animals from Namibia. These relocations were mostly unsuccessful.</p>
Charli de Vos uses a VHF antenna to locate cheetahs in Phinda Game Reserve. Tony Carnie for Mongabay
Swinging for the Fences<p>But other wildlife conservation leaders have a different perspective on cheetah conservation strategy.</p><p>Gus Mills, a senior carnivore researcher retired in 2006 from SANParks, the agency that manages South Africa's national parks, after a career of more than 30 years in Kalahari and Kruger national parks. He says the focus should be on quality of living spaces rather than the quantity of cheetahs.</p><p>Mills, who was the founder of the Endangered Wildlife Trust's Carnivore Conservation Group in 1995, and who also spent six years after retirement studying cheetahs in the Kalahari, says it's more important to properly protect and, where possible, expand the size of existing protected areas.</p><p>He also advocates a triage approach to cheetah conservation, in which scarce funds and resources are focused on protecting cheetahs in formally protected areas, rather than diluting scarce resources in an attempt to try and save every single remaining cheetah population.</p><p>"People have an obsession with numbers. But I believe that it is more important to protect large landscape and habitats properly," Mills said.</p><p>He suggests that cheetahs enclosed within small reserves live in artificial conditions: "It's almost like glorified farming."</p><p>"In the long run we have to focus on consolidating formally protected areas," he added. "Africa's human population will double by 2050, so cheetah populations in unfenced areas will become unsustainable if they are eating people's livestock."</p>
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