Scientists and Community Leaders Attack NY DEC Fracking Review Process
A group of well-known scientists, economists, physicians, business leaders and elected officials released an open letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Aug. 9 condemning the Department of Environment Conservation's (DEC) review process of unconventional shale gas development in New York State.
The signatories charge that qualified independent experts and their independent data have been excluded from the review of shale gas development in the state. While the DEC has offered preferential treatment and influence to the gas industry during the review, independent experts have been denied substantive discussions.
The letter calls for the resignation of Bradley J. Field, director of the DEC's Division of Mineral Resources, which has overseen the review process. Field, on record as denying the demonstrable harm of climate change, is unqualified to lead the DEC's review of fracking and the accompanying responsibility for scientific integrity, says the letter.
In their letter, the experts make the case that the flawed DEC's review of shale gas extraction contradicts the governor's promises that science, facts and information will inform his decision on the controversial practice.
In part a response to Fred LeBrun's Aug. 4 Albany Times-Union column, the letter states:
"As the Albany Times-Union reports this week that you are now moving actively to release the revised draft regulations and open parts of New York State to fracking, we write to express our complete loss of faith in the Department of Environmental Conservation. This agency has not only colluded with the gas industry in crafting regulations, its preparations to date are wholly inadequate to oversee the roll-out of an industry and practice as inherently dangerous, secretive and accident-prone as fracking."
With the release of the letter, acclaimed biologist and author, Sandra Steingraber said, "The governor cannot say he is guided by science if the scientists themselves are not at his table. And a science review crafted under the watchful eye of the gas industry cannot rightfully be called science. It is an infomercial."
Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan—whose city is among scores of communities across New York State which have banned shale gas extraction through home rule legislation—put it this way: "Early on the governor said that he would rely on science, and we expect him to keep his promise."
"Understanding methane leakage is fundamentally important to the decision-making process on shale gas development," said Dr. Robert Howarth, David R. Atkinson professor of Ecology & Environmental Biology at Cornell University. "Our research demonstrates that methane dominates the greenhouse gas footprint of shale gas. And yet the DEC has ignored both the data and the scientists with the data to offer. I have testified on shale gas both before the Congress of the United States and the European Parliament and yet cannot get an audience in Albany."
Adam Law, founder of Physicians, Scientists, & Engineers for Healthy Energy, noted that "Governor Andrew Cuomo agrees that evidence and facts are the best way to decide whether shale gas extraction should proceed in New York State. Yet, he has repeatedly ignored any direct interaction with the scientific and medical community studying these issues."
Dominic Frongillo, founder of Elected Officials to Protect New York, questioned how someone like Bradley J. Field, leading New York State's most important scientific review, can "be credible when he ignores the conclusions of 98 percent of scientists studying one of fracking's most serious consequences." Frongillo added that "the DEC's collusion with the oil and gas industry, while ignoring independent experts and elected officials, calls the entire process into question. It's a disgrace ..."
The signatories end the letter by calling on Gov. Cuomo to do the right thing by indefinitely extending New York's moratorium on fracking. The best science, they say, shows that "safe" drilling is not possible at this time and that if the DEC were objective and inclusive of evidence and facts, it would come to the same conclusion.
At the end of their letter to Gov. Cuomo, they write, "You cannot claim to be listening to science while ignoring what independent scientists and other experts have to say."
The open letter to Gov. Cuomo follows:
Dear Governor Cuomo,
We—the undersigned scientists, medical professionals, elected officials, business persons, and economists—protest the exclusion of qualified, independent experts from the decision-making process to permit or prohibit unconventional development of natural gas from shale formations in New York State. Letters we have sent to your office and to the Department of Environmental Conservation have received no replies. Requests for meetings with you have received no response. The failure to engage us in substantive discussions contradicts your repeated statement that science, facts, and information will form the basis of your decision.
While our voices have been ignored, the Department of Environmental Conservation has rolled out the red carpet to representatives of the gas industry and engaged them in reciprocal conversation. Gas industry representatives have enjoyed meetings with high-level officials, sneak peaks at the draft environmental impact statement, and same-day responses to emailed requests, as revealed by the recent Environmental Working Group report based on FOIL documents.
As the Albany Times Union reports this week that you are now moving actively to release the revised draft regulations and open parts of New York State to
unconventional shale gas extraction via hydraulic fracturing, we write to express our complete loss of faith in the Department of Environmental Conservation. This agency has not only colluded with the gas industry in crafting regulations, its preparations to date are wholly inadequate to oversee the roll-out of an industry and practice as inherently dangerous, secretive, and accident-prone as spatially intensive, high-volume fracking.
Furthermore, we call for the resignation of Bradley Field, the chief of the DEC’s Division of Mineral Resources. Mr. Field is directly responsible for the scientific integrity of the document on which your decision will rest. As a signatory to a petition that denies the demonstrable harm of climate change, Mr. Field has shown himself wholly unqualified for his position.
Governor Cuomo, the “science, facts, and information” that will inform your decision to allow or disallow unconventional shale gas development in New York State is being supplied by a climate change contrarian who works within an agency whose senior officials openly collude with the gas industry and ignore the concerns of independent experts. You are being badly served.
We believe that “safe” development of shale gas is not possible at this time using existing technologies. Were the DEC objective and inclusive of evidence and facts, it would come to the same conclusion. The best science shows that the moratorium on unconventional development of natural gas from shale formations in New York State should be indefinitely extended. The process as we know it is simply too unpredictable and dangerous to be allowed to go forward in our state.
By extending the moratorium, you have an opportunity to develop a sustainable energy policy in New York State, become an environmental champion, put yourself in harmony with public opinion, and demonstrate that you are making a sciencebased decision. You cannot claim to be listening to science while ignoring what independent scientists have to say.
It's time to do the right thing.
Former executive vice president, Mobil Oil Corporation
Town Supervisor of Caroline
Public relations and creative services manager, Brewery Ommegang
Jannette Barth, PhD
Pepacton Institute LLC
Deputy Town Supervisor of Caroline; founder, Elected Officials to Protect New York
Robert Howarth, PhD
David R. Atkinson, Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology
Anthony Ingraffea, PhD, PE
Dwight C. Baum, Professor of Engineering
Adam Law, MD
Endocrinologist, Ithaca, New York; Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London
Energy Policy Forum
Mayor of Binghamton
Sandra Steingraber, PhD
Distinguished Scholar in Residence, Ithaca College
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Alexander Richard Braczkowski, Christopher O'Bryan, Duan Biggs, and Raymond Jansen
A Cute But Threatened Species<p><a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/what-is-a-pangolin" target="_blank">Pangolins</a> are the only mammals wholly-covered in scales, which they use to protect themselves from predators. They can also curl up into a tight ball.</p><p>They eat mainly ants, termites and larvae which they pick up with their sticky tongue. They can grow up to 1m in length from nose to tail and are sometimes referred to as scaly anteaters.</p><p>But <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780128155073000332" title="Chapter 33 - Conservation strategies and priority actions for pangolins" target="_blank">all eight</a> pangolin species are classified as "<a href="https://www.pangolins.org/tag/endangered-species/" target="_blank">threatened</a>" under International Union for Conservation of Nature <a href="https://www.iucnredlist.org/search?query=pangolin&searchType=species" target="_blank">criteria</a>.</p><p>There is an unprecedented demand for their scales, primarily from countries in Asia and <a href="https://conbio.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/conl.12389" title="Assessing Africa‐Wide Pangolin Exploitation by Scaling Local Data" target="_blank">Africa</a> where they are used in food, cultural remedies and <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/141072b0" title="Chinese Medicine and the Pangolin" target="_blank">medicine</a>.</p><p>Between 2017 and 2019, seizures of pangolin scales <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2020/02/pangolin-scale-trade-shipments-growing/" target="_blank">tripled in volume</a>. In 2019 alone, 97 tons of pangolin scales, equivalent to about 150,000 animals, were <a href="https://oxpeckers.org/2020/03/nigeria-steps-up-for-pangolins/" target="_blank">reportedly</a> intercepted leaving Africa.</p>
Reintroduction of an Extinct Species<p>Each year in South Africa the African Pangolin Working Group (<a href="https://africanpangolin.org/" target="_blank">APWG</a>) retrieves between 20 and 40 pangolins through intelligence operations with security forces.</p><p>These pangolins are often-traumatised and injured and are admitted to the <a href="http://www.johannesburgwildlifevet.com/our-hospital" target="_blank">Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital</a> for extensive medical treatment and rehabilitation before they can be considered for release.</p><p>In 2019, seven rescued Temminck's pangolins were reintroduced into South Africa's <a href="https://www.andbeyond.com/destinations/africa/south-africa/kwazulu-natal/phinda-private-game-reserve/" target="_blank">Phinda Private Game Reserve</a> in the KwaZulu Natal Province.</p><p>Nine months on, five have survived. This reintroduction is a world first for a region that last saw a viable population of this species in the 1980s.</p><p>During the release, every individual pangolin followed a strict regime. They needed to become familiar with their new surroundings and be able to forage efficiently.</p>
A ‘Soft Release’ in to the Wild<p>The process on Phinda game reserve involved a more gentle ease into re-wilding a population in a region that had not seen pangolins for many decades.</p><p>The soft release had two phases:</p><ol><li>a pre-release observational period</li><li>an intensive monitoring period post release employing GPS satellite as well as VHF tracking tags.</li></ol>
Why Pangolin Reintroduction is Important<p>We know so little about this group of mammals that are vastly understudied and hold many secrets yet to be discovered by science but are on the verge of collapse.</p><p>The South African and Phinda story is one of hope for the Temminck's pangolin where they once again roam the savanna hills and plains of Zululand.</p><p>The process of relocating these trade animals back into the wild has taken many turns, failures and tribulations but, the recipe of the "soft release" is working.</p>
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By Jake Johnson
In a move that environmentalists warned could further imperil hundreds of endangered species and a protected habitat for the sake of profit, President Donald Trump on Friday signed a proclamation rolling back an Obama-era order and opening nearly 5,000 square miles off the coast of New England to commercial fishing.
Why You Should Wash Fresh Produce<p>Global pandemic or not, properly washing fresh fruits and vegetables is a good habit to practice to minimize the ingestion of potentially harmful residues and germs.</p><p>Fresh produce is handled by numerous people before you purchase it from the grocery store or the farmers market. It's best to assume that not every hand that has touched fresh produce has been clean.</p><p>With all of the people constantly bustling through these environments, it's also safe to assume that much of the <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/fresh-vs-frozen-fruit-and-vegetables" target="_blank">fresh produce</a> you purchase has been coughed on, sneezed on, and breathed on as well.</p><p>Adequately washing fresh fruits and vegetables before you eat them can significantly reduce residues that may be left on them during their journey to your kitchen.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Washing fresh fruits and vegetables is a proven way to remove germs and unwanted residues from their surfaces before eating them.</p>
Best Produce Cleaning Methods<p>While rinsing fresh produce with water has long been the traditional method of preparing fruits and veggies before consumption, the current pandemic has many people wondering whether that's enough to really clean them.</p><p>Some people have advocated the use of soap, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/white-vinegar" target="_blank">vinegar</a>, lemon juice, or even commercial cleaners like bleach as an added measure.</p><p>However, health and food safety experts, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC), strongly urge consumers not to take this advice and stick with plain water.</p><p>Using such substances may pose further health dangers, and they're unnecessary to remove the most harmful residues from produce. <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/chlorine-poisoning" target="_blank">Ingesting commercial cleaning chemicals</a> like bleach can be lethal and should never be used to clean food.</p><p>Furthermore, substances like lemon juice, vinegar, and produce washes have not been shown to be any more effective at cleaning produce than plain water — and may even leave additional deposits on food.</p><p>While some research has suggested that using neutral electrolyzed water or a baking soda bath can be even more effective at removing certain substances, the consensus continues to be that cool tap water is sufficient in most cases.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>The best way to wash fresh produce before eating it is with cool water. Using other substances is largely unnecessary. Plus they're often not as effective as water and gentle friction. Commercial cleaners should never be used on food.</p>
How to Wash Fruits and Vegetables With Water<p>Washing fresh fruits and vegetables in cool water before eating them is a good practice when it comes to health hygiene and food safety.</p><p>Note that fresh produce should not be washed until right before you're ready to eat it. Washing fruits and vegetables before storing them may create an environment in which bacterial growth is more likely.</p><p>Before you begin washing fresh produce, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-should-you-wash-your-hands" target="_blank">wash your hands well</a> with soap and water. Be sure that any utensils, sinks, and surfaces you're using to prepare your produce are also thoroughly cleaned first.</p><p>Begin by cutting away any bruised or visibly rotten areas of fresh produce. If you're handling a fruit or vegetable that'll be peeled, such as an orange, wash it before peeling it to prevent any surface bacteria from entering the flesh.</p><p>The general methods to wash produce are as follows:</p><ul><li><strong>Firm produce.</strong> Fruits with firmer skins like apples, lemons, and pears, as well as <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/root-vegetables" target="_blank">root vegetables</a> like potatoes, carrots, and turnips, can benefit from being brushed with a clean, soft bristle to better remove residues from their pores.</li><li><strong>Leafy greens.</strong> Spinach, lettuce, Swiss chard, leeks, and cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts and bok choy should have their outermost layer removed, then be submerged in a bowl of cool water, swished, drained, and rinsed with fresh water.</li><li><strong>Delicate produce.</strong> Berries, mushrooms, and other types of produce that are more likely to fall apart can be cleaned with a steady stream of water and gentle friction using your fingers to remove grit.</li></ul><p>Once you have thoroughly rinsed your produce, dry it using a clean paper or cloth towel. More fragile produce can be laid out on the towel and gently patted or rolled around to dry them without damaging them.</p><p>Before consuming your fruits and veggies, follow the simple steps above to minimize the amount of germs and substances that may be on them.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Most fresh fruits and veggies can gently be scrubbed under cold running water (using a clean soft brush for those with firmer skins) and then dried. It can help to soak, drain, and rinse produce that has more dirt-trapping layers.</p>
The Bottom Line<p>Practicing good food hygiene is an important health habit. Washing fresh produce helps minimize surface germs and residues that could make you sick.</p><p>Recent fears during the <a href="https://www.healthline.com/coronavirus" target="_blank">COVID-19 pandemic</a> have caused many people to wonder whether more aggressive washing methods, such as using soap or commercial cleaners on fresh produce, are better.</p><p>Health professionals agree that this isn't recommended or necessary — and could even be dangerous. Most fruits and vegetables can be sufficiently cleaned with cool water and light friction right before eating them.</p><p>Produce that has more layers and surface area can be more thoroughly washed by swishing it in a bowl of cool water to remove dirt particles.</p><p>Fresh fruits and vegetables offer a number of healthy nutrients and should continue to be eaten, as long as safe cleaning methods are practiced.</p>
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Following the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, people around the United States are protesting racism, police brutality, inequality, and violence in their own communities. No matter your political affiliation, the violence by multiple police departments in this country is unacceptable.
Mangroves play a vital role in capturing carbon from the atmosphere. Mangrove forests are tremendous assets in the fight to stem the climate crisis. They store more carbon than a rainforest of the same size.
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By Jacob L. Steenwyk and Antonis Rokas
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>