A new report1 on shale resources and hydraulic fracturing from the Government Accountability Office (GAO)—an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress—concludes that fracking poses serious risks to health and the environment. The report, which reviewed studies from state agencies overseeing fracking as well as scientific reports, found that the extent of the risks has not yet been fully quantified and that there are many unanswered questions and a lack of scientific data.
Major reports and studies were also released in Europe the past two months, all of which came to the conclusion that fracking poses serious risks to water, public health, and the environment, and that additional scientific study is necessary. Meanwhile, in NY hundreds2 of doctors, scientists, and medical organizations have renewed calls for an independent, comprehensive health impact assessment and additional scientific research.
“The big-money gas industry is at it again,” said John Armstrong of Frack Action on behalf of New Yorkers Against Fracking, a broad coalition of New Yorkers opposed to fracking. “Rather than allow a comprehensive independent health assessment that can study the dangers fracking poses to our water and health, they just want to frack as quickly as possible and take their profits back to Texas.”
Given the conclusions from the broad NY, U.S., and world-wide scientific and medical community that fracking poses serious public health and environmental risks and needs further scientific study, the gas industry and the Joint Landowners Coalition’s rush to frack is dangerously reckless and irresponsible.
The Government Accountability Office report, which includes review of the New York Department of Conservation's study of fracking, finds that there is insufficient data and scientific study to determine the extent of risks fracking poses to groundwater and avenues for groundwater contamination, but it does note that such contamination can take place. For example, the report states that, "Underground migration can occur as a result of improper casing and cementing of the well bore as well as the intersection of induced fractures with natural fractures, faults, or improperly plugged dry or abandoned wells. Moreover, there are concerns that induced fractures can grow over time and intersect with drinking water aquifers" (page 46).
The GAO's concerns about improperly plugged and abandoned wells strike an unnerving note in New York especially, given that the Associated Press recently found3 that Department of Environmental Conservation records, "reveal thousands of unplugged and abandoned wells and other industrial problems that could pose a threat to groundwater, wetlands, air quality and public safety."
The GAO report also raises many other concerns long held by NY health professionals and scientists, such as the negative impacts that fracking will mean for air quality. The GAO report concludes that, "Construction of the well pad, access road, and other drilling facilities requires substantial truck traffic, which degrades air quality. Air quality may also be degraded as fleets of trucks travelingnewly graded or unpaved roads increase the amount of dust released into the air—which can contribute to the formation of regional haze" (page 33).
GAO goes on to raise concerns that silica sand—commonly used as a proppant in the hyrdaulic fracturing process—may pose a risk to human health. GAO notes that according to a federal researcher from the Department of Health and Human Services, particles from the sand "can lodge in the lungs and potentially cause silicosis" (page 33).
That the gas industry and the Joint Landowners Coalition would push to frack, rather than listen to the science and medical experts and wait for the necessary studies such as an independent, comprehensive health impact assessment4 to be undertaken, is indicative that they are comfortable putting profits before health and are unwilling to participate in a debate based on the science and facts.
On behalf of New Yorkers Against Fracking, Armstrong said, “Fracking proponents continue their reckless and irresponsible push to frack even in the face of an overwhelming body of science showing that fracking poses serious risks to health and the environment and consensus among experts and government agencies that we need more scientific study on fracking. Our water, air and health are priceless.”
The new reports from Europe include a comprehensive report5 from the European Commission's Environment Directorate-General, a joint report6 from Germany's Federal Environment Agency and Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, and a year-long German Hydrofracking Risk Assessment7 study from a panel of independent experts.
Among the conclusions8 from the European Commission's Environment Directorate-General’s comprehensive report5 are that there is "a high risk of surface and groundwater contamination at various stages of the well-pad construction, hydraulic fracturing and gas production processes, and well abandonment, and cumulative developments could further increase this risk." The report also points to air emissions impacts that pose "potentially significant effect on air quality including ozone levels."
The conclusions8 from the joint report6 by Germany's Federal Environment Agency and Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety include that fracking can lead to groundwater contamination,that experts advise against large-scale fracking and that there should be a ban in areas that provide drinking water, and that more scientific study is necessary to evaluate environmental risks.
Germany’s year-long Hydrofracking Risk Assessment7 by a panel of independent experts similarly found8 that fracking entails serious risks, that it can do substantial harm to water resources, and pointed to greater concerns about fracking in areas that supply drinking water.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
1Government Accountability Office. September, 2012. "OIL AND GAS: Information on Shale Resources, Development, and Environmental and Public Health Risks" <http://www.gao.gov/assets/650/647791.pdf>
2Physicians Scientists & Engineers for a Healthy Environment. October 5, 2011. "Physicians Sign-On Letter to Governor Cuomo" <http://www.psehealthyenergy.org/site/view/1024>
3Associated Press. September 26, 2012. "Marcellus Shale links: NY records show history of oil, gas well problems" <http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2012/09/marcellus_shale_links_ny_recor.html>
4Capitol Confidential. October 4, 2012. "Doctors, Nurses Press Cuomo on Hydrofracking Health Review" <http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/159030/doctors-nurses-press-cuomo-on-hydrofracking-health-review/>
5October 8, 2012. "Support to the identification of potential risks for the environment and human health arising from hydrocarbons operations involvinghydraulic fracturing in Europe" <http://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/energy/pdf/fracking%20study.pdf>
6Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety and the Federal Environment Agency. September, 2012. "Tight restrictions on hydraulic fracturing required" <http://www.umweltbundesamt.de/uba-info-presse-e/2012/pe12-028_tight_restrictions_on_hydraulic_fracturing_required.htm>
7Germany Hydrofracking Risk Assessment by a panel of independent experts. 2012. "Hydrofracking Risk Assessment" <http://dialog-erdgasundfrac.de/sites/dialog-erdgasundfrac.de/files/Ex_HydrofrackingRiskAssessment_120611.pdf>
8The Energy Collective. October 11, 2012. "The latest science from Europe on fracking" <http://theenergycollective.com/amymall/122906/latest-science-europe-fracking>
By Suzanne Cords
One day Lizzie, the first-person narrator of the novel, receives an old book as a gift, with a dedication wishing the reader to be among the survivors. Like the preppers who build bunkers and stockpile supplies in remote areas to be ready for the end of the world, Lizzie is convinced that the end of the world is definitely near in times of a threatening climate disaster.
Lizzie, who lives in New York with her husband and son, is a university campus librarian. She worries about almost everything: her brother, an ex-junkie, or her dental insurance and the future in the face of the apocalypse. She is obsessed with reading reference books and articles about climate change.
She also devours words of wisdom, including about Buddhist spirituality: "A visitor once asked the old monks on Mount Athos what they did all day, and was told: We have died and we are in love with everything." But nothing can lift her spirits.
'Lizzie Is Just Like Us'
Lizzie observes rich New Yorkers plan their move to regions that are less threatened by climate change, something she simply cannot afford. Sometimes she watches disaster movies, which lead her to worry even more.
Above all, she is a gifted observer of her fellow human beings. "Young person worry: What if nothing I do matters? Old person worry: What if everything I do, does?"
Lizzie, the U.S. author told DW, is a bit like the rest of us — well aware of the climate crisis, but because she cares and worries about so many other things, that awareness falls by the wayside. That's how she felt herself, Jenny Offill said, but the more she looked into the issue, the more she saw a need for action on her part, too.
"I also was trying to see if there was a way to make it funny, because, you know, so much of the world of prepping and imagining disaster is actually sort of strangely funny."
The novel was shortlisted for the 2020 UK's Women's Prize for Fiction and has now been released in German translation.
Climate Activist With a Vision
But then, there is also this serious, scientifically based concern about what climate change means. In the past, says Offill, artists were the ones who would predict disasters; today it's the experts, as well as the students she teaches. In the end, their fears and their justified anger motivated her to take a closer look at the issue. Today, she is a climate activist herself, and is involved in initiatives along with many other artists.
Lizzie, the heroine of Weather, hasn't gotten that far. But she voices her fears, and that's a start. "Of course, the world continues to end," says Sylvia, a mentor of Lizzie's, at one point — and commences to water her garden. There is hope after all.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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By Jake Johnson
A federal appeals court on Tuesday dealt the final blow to former President Donald Trump's attempt to open nearly 130 million acres of territory in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans to oil and gas drilling.
Though the Trump administration appealed the ruling, President Joe Biden revoked his predecessor's 2017 order shortly after taking office, rendering the court case moot. On Tuesday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to dismiss the Trump administration's appeal.
"Because the terms of the challenged Executive Order are no longer in effect, the relevant areas of the [Outer Continental Shelf] in the Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea, and Atlantic Ocean will be withdrawn from exploration and development activities," the court said in its order.
Erik Grafe of Earthjustice, which represented a coalition of advocacy groups that challenged Trump's order, said in a statement that "we welcome today's decision and its confirmation of President Obama's legacy of ocean and climate protection."
"As the Biden administration considers its next steps, it should build on these foundations, end fossil fuel leasing on public lands and waters, and embrace a clean energy future that does not come at the expense of wildlife and our natural heritage," Grafe continued. "One obvious place for immediate action is America's Arctic, including the Arctic Refuge and the Western Arctic, which the previous administration sought to relegate to oil development in a series of last-minute decisions that violate bedrock environmental laws."
VICTORY: 9th Circuit ends fight over President Trump's illegal attempt to open up 128 million acres of Atlantic & A… https://t.co/TvYVt2F1jO— Earthjustice (@Earthjustice)1618347073.0
In January, Biden ordered a temporary pause on new oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters, a decision environmentalists hailed as a positive step that should be made permanent.
"We call on President Biden to keep his promise: a full and complete ban on fracking and fossil fuel extraction on public lands. Full stop," Food & Water Watch policy director Mitch Jones said at the time. "The climate crisis requires it and he promised it."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By 2035, every new car and truck sold in the U.S. could be an EV, a new report says.
Accelerations in technology and especially battery affordability, paired with new policy, mean the dramatic transition would save American drivers $2.7 trillion by 2050, an average savings of $1,000 per household per year.
The ramp up in EV production would also create 2 million new jobs by 2035. Battery prices have fallen 74% since 2014, and their unexpectedly rapid fall is a key driver of the cost savings.
EVs are far simpler mechanically, and more efficient, than internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, which translates to reduced climate pollution and lower costs for consumers.
Strengthened vehicle efficiency standards and investment in fast charging infrastructure are needed to accelerate the transition, which would prevent 150,000 premature deaths and save $1.3 trillion in health environmental costs by 2050.
For a deeper dive:
Thousands of Superfund sites exist around the U.S., with toxic substances left open, mismanaged and dumped. Despite the high levels of toxicity at these sites, nearly 21 million people live within a mile of one of them, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Currently, more than 1,300 Superfund sites pose a serious health risk to nearby communities. Based on a new study, residents living close to these sites could also have a shorter life expectancy.
Published in Nature Communications, the study, led by Hanadi S. Rifai, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Houston, and a team of researchers, found that living in nearby zip codes to Superfund sites resulted in a decreased life expectancy of more than two months, the University of Houston reported.
"We have ample evidence that contaminant releases from anthropogenic sources (e.g., petrochemicals or hazardous waste sites) could increase the mortality rate in fence-line communities," Rifai told the University of Houston. "Results showed a significant difference in life expectancy among census tracts with at least one Superfund site and their neighboring tracts with no sites."
The study pulled data from 65,000 census tracts – defined geographical regions – within the contiguous U.S., The Guardian reported. With this data, researchers found that for communities that are socioeconomically challenged, this life expectancy could decrease by up to a year.
"It was a bit surprising and concerning," Rifai told The Guardian. "We weren't sure [when we started] if the fact that you are socioeconomically challenged would make [the Superfund's effects] worse."
The research team, for example, found that the presence of a Superfund site in a census tract with a median income of less than $52,580 could reduce life expectancy by seven months, the University of Houston reported.
Many of these toxic sites were once used as manufacturing sites during the Second World War. Common toxic substances that are released from the sites into the air and surface water include lead, trichlorethylene, chromium, benzene and arsenic – all of which can lead to health impacts, such as neurological damage among children, The Union of Concerned Scientists wrote in a blog.
"The EPA has claimed substantial recent progress in Superfund site cleanups, but, contrary to EPA leadership's grandiose declarations, the backlog of unfunded Superfund cleanups is the largest it has been in the last 15 years," the Union wrote.
Delayed cleanup could become increasingly dangerous as climate change welcomes more natural hazards, like wildfires and flooding. According to a Government Accountability Office report, for example, climate change could threaten at least 60 percent of Superfund sites in the U.S., AP News reported.
During the summer of 2018, a major wildfire took over the Iron Mountain Superfund site near Redding, CA, ruining wastewater treatment infrastructure that is responsible for capturing 168 million gallons of acid mine drainage every month, NBC News reported.
"There was this feeling of 'My God. We ought to have better tracking of wildfires at Superfund locations,'" Stephen Hoffman, a former senior environmental scientist at the EPA, told NBC News. "Before that, there wasn't a lot of thought about climate change and fire. That has changed."
In the study, researchers also looked at the impacts of floodings on Superfund sites, which could send toxins flowing into communities and waterways.
"When you add in flooding, there will be ancillary or secondary impacts that can potentially be exacerbated by a changing future climate," Rifai told the University of Houston. "The long-term effect of the flooding and repetitive exposure has an effect that can transcend generations."
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A weather research station on a bluff overlooking the sea is closing down because of the climate crisis.
The National Weather Service (NWS) station in Chatham, Massachusetts was evacuated March 31 over concerns the entire operation would topple into the ocean.
"We had to say goodbye to the site because of where we are located at the Monomoy Wildlife Refuge, we're adjacent to a bluff that overlooks the ocean," Boston NWS meteorologist Andy Nash told WHDH at the time. "We had to close and cease operations there because that bluff has significantly eroded."
Chatham is located on the elbow of Cape Cod, a land mass extending out into the Atlantic Ocean that has been reshaped and eroded by waves and tides over tens of thousands of years, The Guardian explained. However, sea level rise and extreme weather caused by the climate crisis have sped that change along.
"It's an extremely dynamic environment, which is obviously a problem if you are building permanent infrastructure here," Andrew Ashton, an associate scientist at Cape-Cod based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, told The Guardian. "We are putting our foot on the accelerator to make the environment even more dynamic."
This was the case with the Chatham weather station. It used to be protected from the drop into the ocean by about 100 feet of land. However, storm action in 2020 alone washed away as much as six feet of land a day.
"We'd know[n] for a long time there was erosion but the pace of it caught everyone by surprise," Nash told The Guardian. "We felt we had maybe another 10 years but then we started losing a foot of a bluff a week and realized we didn't have years, we had just a few months. We were a couple of storms from a very big problem."
The Chatham station was part of a network of 92 NWS stations that monitor temperature, pressure, humidity, wind speed and direction and other data in the upper atmosphere, The Cape Cod Chronicle explained. The stations send up radiosondes attached to weather balloons twice a day to help with weather research and prediction. The Chatham station, which had been observing this ritual for the past half a century, sent up its last balloon the morning of March 31.
"We're going to miss the observations," Nash told The Cape Cod Chronicle. "It gives us a snapshot, a profile of the atmosphere when the balloons go up."
The station was officially decommissioned April 1, and the two buildings on the site will be demolished sometime this month. The NWS is looking for a new location in southeastern New England. In the meantime, forecasters will rely on data from stations in New York and Maine.
Nash said the leavetaking was bittersweet, but inevitable.
"[M]other nature is evicting us," he told The Cape Cod Chronicle.