Pipelines = Fracking: Stop the Constitution Pipeline
Stop the Pipeline (STP), a grassroots organization of landowners and citizens who are opposed to the 120-mile long Constitution Pipeline which would run through pristine territory, from Susquehanna County, PA to Schoharie County, NY, is holding a street meeting and rally in front of Foothills Performing Art Center—24 Market St., Oneonta, NY 13820—at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 24, before the scheduled Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) public scoping session at 7 p.m. where people will testify regarding the obligations of FERC to investigate all possible impacts of the proposed pipeline.
FERC had not originally scheduled any Constitution Pipeline hearings for Delaware or Otsego counties in New York. As a result of public pressure from Stop the Pipeline and other groups and individuals, FERC has extended the comment period to Nov. 9 and is holding the Oct. 24 hearing in Oneonta.
In early June, landowners received a letter from the pipeline developers—Constitution Pipeline Co. LLC, a joint venture of Williams Partners LP and Cabot Oil & Gas Corp—about the plans to build the Constitution Pipeline. Concerned about what was stated in the letter, Howard Hannum, a resident of Sidney Center, NY, called the first meeting of Stop the Pipeline. He asked Anne Marie Garti, a Delaware County native and law student enrolled at Pace University's nationally esteemed Environmental Litigation Clinic, to speak. More than 150 people attended, representing all the New York counties affected, including residents from Pennsylvania.
"We want, need and deserve to know the cumulative impact this is going to have on our way of life, public health and safety, the environment, and the future of tourism and agriculture," says Rebecca Roter, who lives in Montrose, PA, where the pipeline's originating compressor is being built. "We already know the economic boom is going to come to an end. We need to know what is going to be left when that happens."
The group's mission is to focus on the the impacts of the pipeline. One of the greatest concerns is the ecological and seismic fragility of the land along the pipeline route. One of the pipeline routes crosses Riddell State Park, home of old growth trees and Schenevus Creek, a Class A trout stream. Another cuts through the famed and unique Emmons Bog.
"The Richmondville and East Worcester portions of the I-88/M route, where there is a confluence of a spider web of faults, present an elevated risk for pipeline compromise during and following the area’s inevitable seismic activity," says Robert Nied, of Schoharie, NY, a Stop the Pipeline steering committee member. "There have been something like 91 quakes in that area since 1973. I live about 2.5 miles west of the confluence and the last substantive quake, about 6 years ago, cracked the foundation of my house."
Another goal is to keep an eye on the industry. "Williams-Cabot are renegades operating outside the law," says Mark Pezzati of Andes, NY.
"For instance, they lack required permits, yet despite that they are building a facility at the start of this project in Pennsylvania which in some places, such as internal investor's reports, is described as the beginning of the Constitution Pipeline and on others, such as government specs, is just a compressor being built in limbo. They are illegally and fraudulently segmenting the project to avoid regulatory oversight."
The first proposed route runs right beside Loddie Marsh's home in Sidney. The second route does not. "When people read that the new proposed pipeline will use the I-88 corridor they may get the impression that no residents will be affected, that no land will be taken by eminent domain,” says Marsh, an STP steering committee member. "That's what Cabot-Williams, who is building the pipeline, wants you to think. Cabot-Williams is trying to take your land for corporate profit. This project is not created for the good of the people. This project is providing the infrastructure for fracking. So I do not want a pipeline in my front yard nor in anyone's front yard."
Bruce Kernan of East Worcester, NY, a STP steering committee member, whose family manages a sustainable forest, is concerned about environmental as well as economic impacts. "The pipeline is sucking wealth out of local property owners and giving it to the stockholders of the pipeline company. Just the proposal of this pipeline project has already destroyed property values in the counties through which the proposed pipeline would pass."
"I am grateful to those who traveled from the west to comment at the scoping session in Schoharie County," says Robert Nied, a concerned citizen. "Everyone who is concerned about this proposal views this as a regional issue rather than a local one. Comments were clearly articulated, heartfelt, thoughtful and well researched. There is no question that the community spoke well for itself and there is no question that the proposed Constitution Pipeline is intended to encourage and facilitate the reckless practice of hydrofracking across Upstate NY and is part of an effort to industrialize and negatively transform our rural communities. I hope that the people of Otsego and Delaware Counties will let FERC know about their concerns at the Oneonta hearing."
Stop the Pipeline has retained the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, who will be representing STP on legal matters during the environmental review of the Constitution Pipeline. The supervising attorneys of the Litigation Clinic are Karl S. Coplan, Daniel E. Estrin and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Garti will be working under them.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. founded the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic in 1987, and still operates it with his two law partners, Professors Karl S. Coplan and Daniel E. Estrin, and a team of ten eager third-year law students. "It is not possible to sit back and watch corporations and government agencies violate the public trust. We must do everything possible to take back our democracy and protect the air, water and soil on which we all depend," said Kennedy.
Learn more about pipelines by watching this video:
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From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.
When Looking Through a Microscope Isn’t Close Enough.<p>For the last few years, <a href="http://www.rokaslab.org/" target="_blank">our team at Vanderbilt University</a>, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/lab/Gustavo-Goldman-Lab" target="_blank">Gustavo Goldman's team at São Paulo University in Brazil</a> and many other collaborators around the world have been collecting samples of fungi from patients infected with different species of <em>Aspergillus</em> molds. One of the species we are particularly interested in is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/rwgn.2001.0082" target="_blank"><em>Aspergillus nidulans</em>, a relatively common and generally harmless fungus</a>. Clinical laboratories typically identify the species of <em>Aspergillus</em> causing the infection by examining cultures of the fungi under the microscope. The problem with this approach is that very closely related species of <em>Aspergillus</em> tend to look very similar in their broad morphology or physical appearance when viewing them through a microscope.</p><p>Interested in examining the varying abilities of different <em>A. nidulans</em> strains to cause disease, we decided to analyze their total genetic content, or genomes. What we saw came as a total surprise. We had not collected <em>A. nidulans</em> but <em>Aspergillus latus</em>, a close relative of <em>A. nidulans</em> and, as we were to soon find out, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2020.04.071" target="_blank">a hybrid species that evolved through the fusion of the genomes</a> of two other <em>Aspergillus</em> species: <em>Aspergillus spinulosporus</em> and an unknown close relative of <em>Aspergillus quadrilineatus</em>. Thus, we realized not only that these patients harbored infections from an entirely different species than we thought they were, but also that this species was the first ever <em>Aspergillus</em> hybrid known to cause human infections.</p>
Several Different Fungal Hybrids Cause Human Disease.<p>Hybrid fungi that can cause infections in humans are well known to occur in several different lineages of single-celled fungi known as yeasts. Notable examples include multiple different species of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/yea.3242" target="_blank">yeast hybrids</a> that cause the human diseases <a href="https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/6218/cryptococcosis" target="_blank">cryptococcosis</a> and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/index.html" target="_blank">candidiasis</a>. Although pathogenic yeast hybrids are well known, our discovery that the <em>A. latus</em> pathogen is a hybrid is a first for molds that cause disease in humans.</p>
(Left) Candida yeasts live on parts of the human body. Imbalance of microbes on the body can allow these yeasts, some of which are hybrids, to grow and cause infection. (Right) Cryptococcus yeasts, including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008315" target="_blank">Why certain <em>Aspergillus</em> species are so deadly</a> while others are harmless remains unknown. This may in part be because <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fbr.2007.02.007" target="_blank">combinations of traits, rather than individual traits</a>, underlie organisms' ability to cause disease. So why then are hybrids frequently associated with human disease? Hybrids inherit genetic material from both parents, which may result in new combinations of traits. This may make them more similar to one parent in some of their characteristics, reflect both parents in others or may differ from both in the rest. It is precisely this mix and match of traits that hybrids have inherited from their parental species that <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/science/14creatures.html" target="_blank">facilitates their evolutionary success</a>, including their ability to cause disease.</p>
The Evolutionary Origin of an Aspergillus Hybrid.<p>Multiple evolutionary paths can lead to the emergence of hybrids. One path is through mating, just as the horse and donkey mate to create a mule. Another path is through the merging or fusion of genetic material from cells of different species.</p><p>It is this second path that appears to have been taken by our fungus. <em>A. latus</em> appears to have two of almost everything compared to its parental species: twice the genome size, twice the total number of genes and so on. But unlike other hybrids, which are often sterile like the mule, we found that <em>A. latus</em> is capable of reproducing both asexually and sexually.</p><p>But how distinct were the parents of <em>A. latus</em>? By comparing the parts contributed by each parent in the <em>A. latus</em> genome, we estimate that its parents are approximately 93% genetically similar, which is about as related as we humans are with lemurs. In other words, <em>A. latus</em>, an agent of infectious disease, is the fungal equivalent of a human-lemur hybrid.</p>
How A. Latus Differs From its Parents.<p>Elucidating the identity of closely related fungal pathogens and how they differ from each other in infection-relevant characteristics is a key step toward reducing the burden of fungal disease. For example, we found that <em>A. latus</em> was three times more resistant than <em>A. nidulans</em>, the species it was originally identified as using microscopy-based methods, to one of the most common antifungal drugs, <a href="https://www.drugbank.ca/drugs/DB00520" target="_blank">caspofungin</a>. This result provides a clear example of the potential importance of accurate identification of the <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogen causing an infection.</p><p>We also examined how <em>A. latus</em> and <em>A. nidulans</em> interact with cells from our immune system. We found that immune cells were less efficient at combating <em>A. latus</em> compared to <em>A. nidulans</em>, suggesting the hybrid fungus may be trickier for our immune systems to identify and destroy.</p><p>In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our quest to understand <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogens is becoming more urgent. Growing evidence suggests that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/myc.13096" target="_blank">a fraction of COVID-19 patients are also infected with <em>Aspergillus</em>.</a> More worrying is that these <a href="https://doi.org/10.3201/eid2607.201603" target="_blank">secondary <em>Aspergillus</em> infections</a> can worsen the clinical outcomes for those infected with the novel coronavirus. That being said, we stress that little is known about <em>Aspergillus</em> infections in COVID-19 patients due to a lack of systematic testing, and none of the infections identified so far appear to have been caused by hybrids.</p><p>So, when it comes to hybrids, some are fantastic (the minotaur), some are helpful (the mule) and some are dangerous (<em>Aspergillus latus</em>). Understanding more about the biology of <em>Aspergillus latus</em> may help in our understanding of how microbial pathogens arise and how to best prevent and combat their infections.</p>
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